Although tourism itself goes back to ancient times, leisure travel really began to take off in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Since then, the hotel industry has been evolving and growing constantly, leading to the so-called democratisation of tourism, as it changed from being a bourgeois luxury to a sector with numerous options for different budgets.
Looking back over the last 20 years, we might think little has changed since then.
However, nothing could be further from the truth. The widespread use of the Internet and new technologies has revolutionised hotels from the early 2000s to those of our time.
Digitalisation of administration
Today, most new hotel facilities tend towards digitalisation: from electronic hotel locks to the digital check-in process. These procedures bring much more efficient and safe management.
20 years ago it was unthinkable for guests to arrive in the middle of the night and go straight to their rooms without going through reception. Today, this is a very common practice in hotels without a permanent reception or in those that have regular business customers.
This access is made possible by simply inputting their digital key – received after they make their booking –using Bluetooth technology or via their own mobile phone.
Widespread Internet use: reservations and transparency
Twenty years ago, it was much more common to use a travel agency to book your hotel stay, phone a hotel yourself to make a reservation or find a hotel after you reached your destination. Many travellers still take these options; however, , 37% of the population in Spain in 2019 used the Internet to book a trip or a hotel; and, according to Statista the percentage in other European countries such as Denmark could be as high as 62%.
Furthermore, the presence of hotels and tourist accommodation on Internet platforms - both for reservations and opinions - has led to greater transparency; as travellers can see images before booking and arriving, provided by the hotel itself, as well as by previous visitors.
Emergence of private homes as tourist accommodation
Although there were some pioneers, such as HomeAway and Vrbo, Airbnb revolutionised the world of hospitality in 2008 with its new concept of offering a digital platform to connect people willing to offer their homes for rent to potential guests. This added substantially to the vast offer of accommodation types that already existed (hotels, campsites, hostels and apartment rentals), where private homes could be rented, ranging from large villas to a room in a house for a few days.
Globalisation, also seen in tourism
Tourism has also been affected by globalisation, with an upward trend in privileged international destinations, compared to national and local destinations being seen for decades. In fact, as the INE Spain study in 2019, shows, the number of national and international trips were almost the same in 2016, with foreign destinations experiencing a large rise thereafter. Also, after France, Spain had the highest number of foreign tourists in 2017. This gives an idea of the degree of globalisation in this sector. However, following, the emergence of the coronavirus and its attendant restrictions, this trend has changed dramatically.
Finally, one of the most important and, at the same time, subtle changes over the last twenty years has been the concentration on the traveller experience, which is now a focus at all levels. Accommodation centres have invested in improving the service they offer to their guests, aware that a hotel is now much more than a place to spend the night on holiday. Technological innovation in the hospitality sector has been essential in this progress towards an unforgettable experience; along with other factors such as sustainability, traveller loyalty and the promotion of values associated with the hotel brand.