This article discusses the history of the hospitality industry and how we reached this phase of hospitality. Here we take a sneak peek at the historical background of the hospitality industry.

Sounds boring, eh! Let’s make it a bit interesting.

Let’s throw in a few exclusive pictures for you and let’s try and make you feel nostalgic while going down memory lane of the hospitality industry.

So, let’s discuss the history of the hospitality industry in a nutshell.

Let’s now embark on a quick tour of the history of the hospitality industry.

Historical Background of the Hospitality Industry

1. Early Hospitality / Ancient Hospitality

From the evolution of the hospitality industry to the current tech-oriented hospitality world. Let’s explore the journey.

Some of the ancient hospitality customs can still give goosebumps to all hospitality professionals and travellers.

The ancient hospitality customs remind us of what the hospitality industry is all about.

To answer the question of what is the hospitality industry, we would also need to dwell on the historical background of the hospitality industry.

The industry itself dates back to the ancient Greek times and even before that.

In this epoch, the hoteliers were always hospitable as they felt it was in accordance with their well-being and those of others.

  • It was around 40 BC according to experts when hospitality services for social and religious gatherings were quite a common phenomenon.
  • It was about this time that the Greeks came up with thermal baths that were designed for recuperation and relaxation.
  • These thermal baths are said to be the origin of what we know as modern-day Spa.
  • Then came the Romans who provided accommodation for travellers on government premises. Here, comfort and entertainment were the names of the game.

There are enough pieces of evidence now that the historical background of the hospitality industry will pull us back to prehistoric times.

Exotic Menu as a part of Ancient Roman Hospitality- Image by Italian Tribune 

When the Romans used to travel, they sought pleasure leading to the development of early inns.

Before we move to the next era, let’s raise a question first.

What is the hospitality industry?

Did you ever think what is the origin of the word ‘hospitality’?

This is one of the basic questions we overlook at times while discussing the hospitality industry or its history and background.

We have been using it ever since it came across without much of a thought on its origin.

Who cares as far as we know what it is all about? Isn’t it?

But, for those who would like to know the meaning of hospitality, the word hospitality is an adaptation of a French word.

The French word ‘hospice’ has been adapted to form the word ‘hospitality’ that means taking care of the travellers.

The original word is still retained by a lot of organisations especially care organisations and hospitals around the globe.

It still carries the inherent message of ‘love and care’ through the word hospitality.

In this section, we have tried to delve into the history of the hospitality industry to understand the hospitality industry of today.

If you are looking specifically for the history of the hotel industry, please check our article on History of the Hotel Industry.

Here, in this article, we intend to drive you down memory lane by looking at the historical background of the hospitality industry overall.

2. Medieval Period for the hospitality industry

This was one of the most interesting parts of the evolution of the hospitality industry.

  • This was the era that started with English travel and excursions when they built inns as their private residences.
  • The nobility used to stay in the monasteries.
  • In 1282 in Florence Italy, the great innkeepers integrated an association to turn hospitality into a business in its own right. They had to garner a permit to import and sell wine which later led to the spread of hospitality elsewhere.
  • Then came into existence the caravanserais. These provided resting destinations for the caravans along Middle Eastern routes along with the monasteries and abbeys.

These places became the first establishments to offer refuge to travellers.

The Persians along the caravan route developed inns and post houses.

These were used to provide accommodations and nourishment to both soldiers and couriers.

By Marco Polo’s time of his journey to the Far East, he estimated that there were 10,000 such post houses located 25 miles apart.

Marco Polo, the great traveller, described them as “suitable for a King” hence giving a great significance to always making your visitor want more after your service.

Marco Polo initiated through his memoirs what we know as travel diaries of today.

His book helped a lot of others to explore the world.

                                                                           Image by  Wikipedia 


This gave rise to what we know as modern-day customer service as an essence of hospitality.

Hospitality at its core is about taking care, pampering and helping others.

We can define the hospitality industry as a broad range of fields within the service sector.

The services revolve around lodging, theme parks, transportation, cruise lines, event planning and a plethora of other services geared towards comfort and serving others.

One of our earlier posts discusses in detail the various sectors of the hospitality industry.

3. The New World of Hospitality- Renaissance and the French Revolution

The French Revolution marked the early beginning of the hospitality we know today.

  • It was the 16th century when the demand for inns and taverns increased multiplefold.
  • The first hospitality establishment as a hotel was built around this time. It was named Hotel de Henry or Hotel de Salm and was built around 1788 (names have changed over the years).
  • However, the first hotel tag goes to Koshu Nishiyama Hotel in Japan which is said to be over 1300 years old. The hotel is still accepting guests and has been run by the same family for several generations.
  • Like England and New York made taverns, Pennsylvania made inns, and the Southern colonies formed ordinaries.
  • Then came the era of Chefs like Escoffier and M.Boulanger who took the culinary standards to altogether a different level.

These hotels created the trend and the world followed the model and started creating eateries and places to rest and sleep.

The French Revolution changed the features of culinary and future of the hospitality industry.


4. Nineteenth-Century and twentieth-century hospitality and tourism

We saw the beginning of luxury Hotels and resorts from the nineteenth century.

London had its hotel named Savoy Hotel and New York had Delmonico. These created stellar luxury and service standards.

What followed was a flurry of great hotels, a lot of which are still creating new standards of hospitality.

The aspects and features of the hospitality industry have undergone a massive transformation over time since the Colonial Period.

Two world wars disrupted the growth of hospitality in the twentieth century.

What ensued after the world wars was the growth in dark tourism or ‘Thanatourism’.

The history of the Hospitality industry also shows us some of the darker sides as the industry goes on to absorb all shades of tourism.

The hospitality industry as an organised industry was formed in the 1950s or 1960s when a proper structure was formed.

And, travellers always sought hospitable places to kick back and relax, away from all the hustle and bustle of everyday routine.

Ranch Built in 1896-  Bow Valley Ranche 

The Industrial Revolution, which began in the 1970s, facilitated the construction of hotels in Europe, England, and America.

The French and Italian veterans followed this trend of constructing hotels.

Here’s a look at the Meadow’s Club built in the early 1930s as the first Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

                                        First Casino Hotel in Las Vegas-  Pinterest 


5. Modern Hospitality industry

The current modern hospitality industry is a mammoth sector raking in trillions of US dollars in revenue each year.

Although most modern hotels feature clients` experience and conveniences such as television, minibars, and en-suite showers, they fulfil the same purpose as ancient inns but with improved services.

The current hospitality unit contains multiple groups.

Examples are facility maintenance and direct operations contributed by servers, housekeepers, kitchen, workers, bartenders, management, marketing, human resource, and tour guides just to mention a few.

The character of every hotelier should not only be impressive but should also surpass the expectations of the customer.

And that isn’t all – utmost professionalism, excellent interpersonal skills, and organisation are also called for.

That’s the message that the history of the hospitality industry still gives to the current hoteliers.

Nowadays, architects, engineers, designers, developers, and managers are conscious of the taste of the guests according to their wishes.

Today’s hoteliers analyse new trends to define better criteria and provide modern standards to improve the quality of life in hotels.

The industry has developed a lot. Casual dining has seen growth, as well as the chain of hotels, has increased. With brands like Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, Starwood, Ritz etc. the hospitality industry seems to be doing quite well.

Thousands of hotel rooms are in the pipeline and transportation for travel has taken a leap into the future.

The tourism industry has a new era of better growth and innovation.

With the future growth in the vicinity and greater interest of people in travelling, the future of hospitality industry looks bright.

Looking at the definition of the Hospitality industry in layman’s terms we can relate the following big categories in this industry.

  • Tourism,
  • Food services,
  • And recreational services.

The hospitality industry can help tourists and visitors. Their services may include the;

  • Meals,
  • Accommodations,
  • Personal services,
  • And travelling for the tourists as well as the residents.

Now there are increased goals and objectives that are met by the industry to become dynamic in today’s cut-throat competition.

The hospitality industry has some prominent time periods in which it has taken a new challenge every time to serve the nations and the global travel community.

While it is easy to assume that hospitality as a norm always existed, what we discussed in this post is the establishment and growth of what we know as the hospitality industry of today.

We all love to travel around the world. Our world has scenic places in abundance.

However, would it not have been difficult to travel if there were no places to stay or nothing to eat?

Think of travelling the Negev Desert in Israel and you find a McDonald’s exactly when you needed a gulp of chilled coke with some fries giving your calorie calculator a break.

Or, think of visiting a remote location in Greenland with enthralling natural beauty all around.

But, you need something to munch as your tummy refuses to hold on any further.

And, you find a McDonald’s right there. What a relief, isn’t it?

                           McDonald’s as Oasis in Negev Desert in Israel-  Image by Mirror 

Indeed, the hospitality industry has been the unifying force making our world a global village.

It is this industry that keeps on inspiring us to travel more and unite with different cultures.

Keep travelling guys as we are all nomads from the heart and soul.

But, we take an opportunity to thank through this article, the hospitality industry and all those who are involved in this industry for making this world a more beautiful place to live and travel.


The story would not be complete without mentioning the contribution of hospitality professionals who make this industry special.

The hospitality industry is all about their employees. They are the internal customers after all.

While the world is shifting to machines, the hospitality industry ensures that we keep appreciating nature and humans.

The workforce is the enabler that provides the real business to the industry and services to remember.

The beauty of the hospitality industry is that they can employ anyone.

Yes, you got that right, the hospitality world accepts and invites people from all industries, countries, races and genders with varied experiences.

The positions can be different, and they may include executive managers, cooks, cleaning staff, gardening, security, waiters, bellhops, guest staff, and every other position you might think of.

So, here you go. A quick journey to the history of the hospitality industry.

The current hospitality industry has mobile check-ins, robot butlers, face screening, chatbots and more.

But, whenever inspiration is needed to remember what hospitality is all about, we can take that from the illustrious history of hospitality.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):


  1. What were some of the major challenges faced by the hospitality industry during its evolution, and how did it overcome them?


Looking back at the history of hospitality, we can see it wasn’t always easy. From ancient times to now, there were always problems to solve. People had to change to meet the needs of society and customers. But they didn’t give up. They kept changing, and now we have a modern hospitality industry filled with technology.


  1. How did societal and cultural changes throughout history impact the development and structure of the hospitality industry?


Back in the Middle Ages, hospitality grew a lot. People built places for travellers to stay, like inns. Rich people stayed in monasteries.

In Italy, innkeepers formed groups to make hospitality a proper business. Travellers found rest in places like caravanserais and post houses. Marco Polo’s stories made people see how important hospitality was for travellers.


  1. Can you provide more insights into the role of specific historical figures or events in shaping the hospitality industry as we know it today?


The Renaissance and French Revolution changed hospitality even more. More inns and taverns were built. The first proper hotels came along, like Hotel de Henry and Koshu Nishiyama Hotel.

Celebrity Chefs like Escoffier and M. Boulanger made food better. It was a time of luxury and good service.


  1. What are some lesser-known or forgotten aspects of the hospitality industry’s history that have had a significant impact on its current state?


From the 1800s onwards, luxury hotels and resorts started appearing. Places like London’s Savoy Hotel and New York’s Delmonico set new standards. Lots of great hotels were built, making hospitality better and better.

As the 19th century gave way to the 20th, the hospitality industry continued to evolve, with new hospitality innovations and advancements shaping the landscape. From the introduction of modern amenities like electricity and indoor plumbing to the rise of iconic hotel brands like Hilton and Marriott, the industry was in a constant state of flux, adapting to the changing needs and desires of travellers.

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