Travel today is more convenient and more affordable than it’s ever been before. There’s a whole industry built up around hospitality. It creates thousands of jobs, and generates billions of dollars annually. However, for most of human history, this wasn’t the case. Travel was expensive, dangerous and rare for centuries. Though taverns with resting places existed, and accommodations for pilgrims on religious journeys were available, there were no purpose-built inns or hotels until quite late.
The history of the hospitality industry in the West begins roughly, at the end of the 18th Century. Around that time, privileged young men from England began to do the so-called Grand Tour after turning 21. They visited countries including France and England, hoping to absorb some of the culture of the continent. A particular interest was in seeing art, and in learning about the classical origins of Western society.
In the 1800’s, Thomas Cook formed his famous travel agency. He led tours locally in England, sometimes arranging trips for hundreds of people at a time. Later, he expanded into the city of London. Cook sold guidebooks, suitcases and other luggage and kept lists of hotels and restaurants. These lists were essentially a business partnership. Coupons provided by Cook entitled travelers to meals or overnight stays at participating establishments.
In the past twenty years, international travel has exploded as a category. In 2016, there were over 1.235 billion international trips, many undertaken by repeat travelers. By 2030, that number is expected to grow by hundreds of millions more trips. It’s expected that people will take over 1.8 billion international trips by then. These numbers only hint at the huge and growing potential in the hospitality industry.
Not only are hotels thriving, there are plenty of options for travelers in the category now. In the 20th century, there were luxury, budget and mid-range hotels. Today, there are boutique hotels and even novelty hotel experiences. Lisa Frank and Taco Bell-themed rooms appeal to millennials with a sense of humor. Big data is making it possible for brands to cater more closely to travelers’ desires than ever before. Restaurants, hotels and airlines are more able than ever before to pinpoint customers’ desires and provide products to fulfill them.