Hotels and Motels

SIC 7011

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This industry comprises commercial establishments known to the public as hotels, motor hotels, motels, or tourist courts, primarily engaged in providing lodging, or lodging and meals, for the general public. Hotels that are operated by membership organizations and open to the general public are included in this industry. Hotels operated by organizations for their members only are classified in SIC 7041: Organization Hotels and Lodging Houses, on Membership basis. Apartment hotels are classified in SIC 6513: Operators of Apartment Buildings; rooming and boarding houses are classified in SIC 7021: Rooming and Boarding Houses; and sporting and recreational camps are classified in SIC 7032: Sporting and Recreational Camps.

Industry Snapshot

The hotel and motel industry played a vital role in the development of trade, commerce, and travel in the United States. In supplying everything from a cheap night's accommodation on the road to meeting and convention spaces and coordination for large corporate events, the remarkably diverse services that American hotels provide have made the hotel industry significant. According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), the industry's sales totaled more than $127 billion in 2009.

In 2010 in the United States, there were 4.7 million rooms at approximately 50,800 properties. About 34 percent of properties and 36 percent of rooms were at suburban locations, and another 30 percent of properties and 20 percent of rooms were situated in small metros/towns. The rest were located in cities (9 percent of properties; 16 percent of rooms), near airports (4 percent of properties; 6 percent of rooms), and at resort sites (7 percent of properties; 13 percent of rooms). The room supply was rising most significantly in suburban areas, and new construction was focused primarily on limited-service facilities--an increasingly popular option for cost-conscious travelers not inclined to frequent more elaborate full-service properties.

The AH&LA also reported that 40 percent of hotel guests were traveling on business and 60 percent were traveling for leisure. The typical business traveler is male (69 percent), between the ages of 35 and 54 (48 percent), and holds a managerial position (53 percent). About 36 percent of business travelers stay for one night, 25 percent for two nights, and 27 percent for three or more nights. The average room rented for leisure is occupied by two adults (51 percent) between the ages of 35 and 54 (40 percent). Forty-eight percent of leisure travelers stay one night, 25 percent stay two nights, and 27 percent stay three or more nights.

In the late 1900s and early 2000s, modest gains in occupancy and the average room rate resulted in higher revenues and profits for all types of hotels. According to the AH&LA, the industry reached record profitability in 1998, grossing $20.9 billion in pretax profits, up from a loss of $5.7 billion in 1990. Likewise, industry revenues increased from $62.8 billion in 1990 to $93.1 billion in 1998. In 2000 the industry recorded its most profitable year ever, as profit levels reached $24 billion. However, in 2001 economic conditions took a turn for the worse, and the terrorist attacks of September 11 that year severely affected both leisure and business travel. Profits fell drastically, declining 33 percent to $16.1 billion. Amid these conditions, new hotel construction declined considerably. After suffering significant losses in revenue during the early 2000s, the industry began to turn around during the second half of 2003, with growth continuing through 2005. During the summer of 2005, room occupancy rates once again reached pre-2001 levels, and 2005 profits reached $22.6 billion.

The economic recession of the late 2000s brought the average occupancy rate down, with that figure reaching its lowest in decades in 2009 at 54.7 percent. Profits, however, held fairly steady, with pretax profits reaching $25.8 billion in 2008.

Organization and Structure

Most analysts classify the industry into full- and limited-service enterprises. Full-service hotels constitute the majority of all properties, although this ratio is dwindling. Typically, they are large properties--averaging about 280 rooms--that often generate about 30 percent of their operating income from food, beverage, and such services as restaurants, room service, and meeting spaces. Limited-service hotels, by contrast, are smaller establishments--averaging about 130 rooms--that do not offer food and beverage services or extra facilities. They rely on room sales for nearly 95 percent of their revenue base.

Vast differences exist in the expenditures that each type of hotel incurs for various services, including room maintenance, food and beverages, and telephones. These costs can diminish profit margins considerably in years with low occupancy rates, especially given that hotels must also keep room rates low in such years to compete for a reduced number of customers. Full-service hotels with significant departmental expenses have, in general, been hurt far more by the oversupply of the industry. Their occupancy rates have not been markedly different from those of limited-service hotels, but room rates have been kept far too low to pay for the cost of servicing them.

All-suite hotels came to prominence in the late 1980s and, because their segment's demand for growth remained healthy, continued to capture attention into the 1990s and 2000s. Such hotels--most of which are branches of specific brand chains--conventionally offer consumers both a living and a bedroom area. While most all-suites offer both food and beverage services, this is not always the case. Indeed, limited-service all-suites often report substantially more attractive profit margins--again, as a result of much lower departmental expenses--and have subsequently attracted increasing interest. Their occupancy rates have traditionally been higher than those of their full-service counterparts, relative to the rest of the industry, without a tremendous drop-off in room rates.

Resorts, hotels with gambling facilities, and conference/convention center hotels represent three smaller but important industry categories. Like all-suites, their demand growth and occupancy rates have generally been higher than the average, simply because they are so capital intensive to build and maintain. Casino hotels grew in popularity due to the expansion of legalized gambling, and the convention center became a popular component of efforts to reinvigorate urban infrastructure.

The casino segment of the hotel industry currently remained clustered in Las Vegas and Atlantic City in the 2000s, although some states passed riverboat gambling laws, which led to numerous hotel/casino establishments springing up in along major waterways, such as the Mississippi River. In Las Vegas several new spectacular destination resorts, such as the Luxor and the Bellagio, were constructed in the 1990s. In contrast to convention center hotels and resort hotels, most hotels with gambling ventures tend to offer low room rates; the gambling activity of the hotel patrons is thus central to the establishment's success. In the later years of the twentieth century, the gaming industry attempted to market its lodging to entire families.

The resort phenomenon is also highly regional, and, because they have had to become more price competitive, resort hotels perhaps rely more on overall regional promotion than anything else. The South Atlantic (primarily Florida) grew into the country's most lively resort region. Even after a number of years of steady growth, its occupancy rates were still the highest of any region in the country in the late 2000s, regularly upwards of 75 percent. The second largest resort market in revenue, the mountain and Pacific region, had steadily lost market share.

Industry Strategies.
There are essentially three forms of participation in the hotel and motel industry: straight ownership of properties, management agreements, and franchising or licensing a brand name. Most large hotel companies are active in all three categories, keeping themselves flexible to utilize varied strategies as the market dictates. Owning a hotel is a capital-intensive endeavor, yet it imparts control and can be very lucrative in an expanding market, when asset values show sizable appreciation. Beginning in the 1980s, managing other people's hotels became a widespread activity.

The trend away from straight ownership, and its inherent risks, has given franchising a greater appeal. Large franchise chains are first and foremost based on the benefits of brand name recognition, for which an operator either pays a straight fee or gives up a percentage of revenue. The name represents a specific concept and standard, consistent at every location. This familiarity appeals to many consumers. It also provides the company a greater efficiency in the use of resources, especially as the chain grows. Through license or franchise agreements, hotel companies can generate revenues from limited capital investments and can market their product more pointedly. In an attempt to segment the market, some companies have successfully developed a variety of chains that are advertised aggressively and provide varying levels of service.

Eager to expand their lodging chains, many companies have turned to conversions of existing hotels rather than new construction in an already bloated market. The scope of industry conversions has more than doubled since 1988, with approximately half of these involving the switching of chain affiliations.

Affiliations and Partnerships.
As the travel industry became increasingly sophisticated and global in nature, hotel operators developed competitive advantages through agreements of various kinds with other industries that serve travelers. Frequent-flyer/guest/renter programs were developed in cooperation with airline and car rental companies. These programs offered points for air travel, hotel visits, and car rentals that could be redeemed for upgrades and awards through any of the three partners. These programs are geared towards fostering brand loyalty, both in the individual leisure traveler, who receives regular statements, and in the corporate traveler who, through side agreements with certain companies, is often given corporate rates or some other preferred-customer benefits.

Relationships with travel agencies and tour operators are also an integral element in the success of many hotels. Agencies, which book approximately 40 percent of the hotel rooms in the United States, are a crucial sales mechanism for the industry, and many hotels operate centralized commission payment systems to make agents more confident about prompt and accurate payments of commissions--generally between 5 to 10 percent. Many hotels also feature toll-free travel agent help desks to answer questions about commissions and to assist in solving reservation system problems. Agreements with tour operators to offer substantial room discounts on bulk bookings are ubiquitous in the hotel and motel industry, as properties benefit not only from the added business but also from the free publicity from appearances in tour operator brochures. However, in the mid-2000s and beyond, travel agents faced challenges from the proliferation of the number of customers who booked travel and accommodations via the Internet, thus bypassing travel agencies altogether.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA), formerly known as the American Hotel and Motel Association, is the major trade association of the industry. It works in partnership with 51 member state associations representing more than 10,000 member properties. The AH&LA conducts surveys and industry analysis and keeps its members up to date on industry trends through newsletters and educational conferences. Primarily, however, it serves as a promotional mechanism for the industry, both in publicity campaigns and in lobby efforts aimed at national and regional governments. AH&LA member properties account for a large percentage of total industry revenues.

Background and Development

The earliest versions of hotels were tiny, single-room dwellings that traveling merchants used in the sixth century B.C. The first such American lodging was the colonial inn, counterpart of the English inn, which flourished during the late 1700s. Colonial inns and taverns dotted the seaport towns and stagecoach roads. They became popular not only with travelers but also with locals, who came to use them as public gathering places for town meetings, schools, and even courts of law.

Hotels as we know them today arose quickly as the major cities grew. The very first, the 73-room City Hotel at 115 Broadway in New York City, was completed in 1794, and similar establishments were soon constructed in Philadelphia, Boston, and Baltimore. The number of hotels increased dramatically in the 1800s, as hotels moved westward. With each new hotel, it seemed, some new service was added, thereby forcing existing hotels to change or face obsolescence. The City Hotel became so outdated that it was converted into an office building only 38 years after it opened. Behind many of the transformations of the industry was a trend towards luxury accommodations that was sparked by the Tremont House in Boston, which was the first to offer such amenities as private guest rooms, locks on doors, a washbowl with free soap, bellboys, French cuisine, and an annunciator that enabled the front desk to communicate with guests in their rooms. Ironically, the Tremont House itself later fell prey to the very trend it had initiated, as it closed for major renovations after just 20 years and was regarded as an outdated establishment toward the end of its 65-year history.

In the mid-1800s, hotels followed the railroads further west, and the properties became increasingly lavish in such cities as Chicago, St. Louis, and San Francisco. Often the hotels' capacities far exceeded potential demand. Curiously, the industry continued in its third century to suffer from many of the same ills that these early development tendencies demonstrated: propensity towards overdevelopment and rapid obsolescence as a result of constant changes in transportation patterns, customer preferences, and new competition.

The First Boom and Bust.
Many nineteenth-century American travelers, unable to afford accommodations at the luxury hotels, were forced to lodge in threadbare rooming houses. Medium-range accommodations were rare, but with the growth of the middle class and the increasing affordability of rail travel, a sizable market for comfortable yet affordable lodging emerged. The first to recognize and serve this market was E. M. Statler, who built the country's first truly modern commercial hotel. The revolutionary Buffalo Statler opened in Buffalo, New York, in 1908 with such conveniences as circulating ice water and a free morning newspaper. Its slogan was "A room and a bath for a dollar and a half" and, in making cleanliness and comfort accessible to so many, the Statler, and its imitators, contributed greatly to the middle-class travel bug.

As the American economy flourished in the 1920s, the hotel industry was poised for its first major boom. Occupancy rates were close to 90 percent as the decade opened, and hoteliers were encouraged to expand existing properties and build many new, larger ones. At the height of the activity, in 1927, Chicago's Hotel Stevens--now the Conrad Hilton--was hailed as the world's largest hotel and remained so until the 1960s. The Depression brought an abrupt halt to the industry's expansion and sent many hotels into foreclosure or receivership, as occupancy rates fell to around 50 percent. At the same time, however, the economic crisis provided the initial impetus to develop hotel chains because it allowed those hoteliers who survived the collapse to increase their holdings inexpensively.

World War II rewarded the aggressive buyers of the 1930s by refilling the existing hotels with transient defense industry workers and military personnel. Occupancy rates approached 90 percent. The 1950s witnessed the beginnings of a complete transformation of the industry. Hotels increasingly catered to a more affluent and mobile society. Americans embraced the convenience of highways and airplanes, making the railway system a less important factor in travel.

Motels, Budgets, and Another Boom.
The early "no-frills" motels were put up quickly and cheaply on large plots along highways. These enterprises, which appealed to lower-income vacation travelers, salesmen, and middle-management businessmen, competed effectively with hotels in the 1950s. The initially significant differences between the two types of lodging--size, start-up costs, operating ratios, and management needs--began to diminish in the 1960s, as motels franchised, grew in size, and started offering more amenities and services. At the same time, a sector of the hotel industry modified itself to compete with motels. Eventually, these hybrid properties came to be known as motor hotels.

Lodging at motor hotels was priced somewhat higher than at the original motels, once again creating a void at the low end of the rate scale. This was soon filled by so-called budget motels. Budget motels were essentially larger, more standardized motels that operated on the same principles as their predecessors--lower initial investments and fewer frills--but were more consciously part of an overall plan to profit by fitting more beds in less space and filling them.

The commotion over the introduction of budget motels to the market coincided with the creation of the real estate investment trust (REIT), which enabled small investors to hold real estate mortgages and equities. This resulted in an unprecedented availability of financing for ambitious builders. Large hotel chains had also started to pursue further expansion through franchise agreements. As a result, the industry became overextended and fell into disarray in the mid-1970s amid the oil crisis, which reduced travel overall; deepening inflation, which caused construction costs and interest rates to soar; and the recession, which forced businesses to cut back on travel and convention spending.

In the 1980s, the hotel industry completed yet another full cycle of growth and retrenchment. As room occupancies reached record levels by the end of the 1970s as a result of an improving economy, the usual losses by attrition, and the suspension of building activity, the industry was poised for a new phase of construction in 1979. The subsequent postponement of expansion, the result of the Federal Reserve's tightening of the money supply, only made the expansion more dramatic, when the Reagan administration began easing these lending constraints and creating tax incentives for developers. In total, the extraordinary building activity added about 7,000 hotels and 900,000 rooms to the industry, priming the industry for yet another oversupply condition.

While the growth during this period was remarkable in itself, transformation of the industry's structure remains its more enduring legacy. Although the market had undergone some segmentation previously with the introductions of motels and budgets, the proliferation of such new lodging concepts as all-suites in the 1980s remained unparalleled. The acquisitions that companies made were often diversification measures, which provided their customer base with an assortment of property types from which they could choose. Segmentation also allowed companies to plan more specifically and apply their resources more efficiently.

During the 1990s, the industry had finally absorbed the overcapacity created by the phenomenal building activity of the 1980s. Lodging industry profits improved dramatically, boosted by stronger consumer demands and the absence of significant new capacity. According to the AH&LA, the industry's pretax profits reached $20.9 billion in 1998, a 23 percent increase over the previous year and nearly twice the profitability of 1996. This represented a dramatic turnaround from the $5.7 billion loss suffered by the industry as recently as 1990.

A number of noticeable trends occurred during the 1990s. Construction increased, as companies increasingly looked to develop new chains by building new facilities. Increased automation of labor-intensive functions, such as hotel check-in and checkout, reduced long-term operating costs and increased customer satisfaction. An emphasis on business-related amenities, such as voice mail, fax, and computer services, appealed to business travelers. Involvement by hotel companies in time-sharing projects provided a means to leverage their expertise in real estate and financing. Finally, extended-stay enterprises, which offered such amenities as separate living room areas and kitchen facilities, enjoyed growing popularity.

The U.S. hotel and motel industry experienced a period of remarkable growth in the mid- to late 1990s and achieved its most profitable year on record in 2000. However, conditions changed the following year. In 2001 economic conditions weakened, and terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11 had a devastating effect on business and leisure travel levels. Citing data from Smith Travel Research, Hotel & Motel Management reported that in 2001 the industry lost some 400 hotels and between $7-$8 billion in room revenue. When related businesses such as food and beverages are factored into the equation, this total was estimated to be much higher. Overall, revenues fell from $108.5 billion in 2000 to $103.6 billion in 2001. New hotel construction activity also fell considerably.

In the third quarter of 2002, Deutsche Bank reported that hotel construction levels were down more than 17 percent from the previous year, according to Hotel & Motel Management. At that time, total room counts were down 22 percent from the previous year's levels. By late 2002, the publication reported that many of the industry's indicators--including average daily rate, revenue per available room, and occupancy levels--were down in comparison to 2001. This was partially attributable to sluggish business travel activity, which had not recovered, as well as the leisure travel segment. Overall, travel expenditures remained weak in 2002, according to the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA).

Between 2000 and 2003, unit-level hotel profits fell by over 36 percent. However, during the second half of 2003 the hotel industry began to regain some ground lost during the early 2000s. A stronger economy as well as the lack of any other terrorist attacks following September 11, 2001, led to an increase in both business and leisure travelers. By the summer of 2005 hotel occupancy was 71.4 percent, a 2.4 percent increase over the summer of 2004 and the highest level since 2000 when it reached 72.1 percent. In addition, revenues per available room (RevPAR), a common means to measure profitability in the industry, were 8.1 percent higher in 2005 than in 2004 and 5.4 percent higher than in 2000.

During 2005 hotel owners gained enough confidence in the economy to raise room rates, which were 4.5 percent during the summer of 2005 than the summer of 2004 and 6.3 percent higher than the summer of 2000. During 2005 average daily room rates reached nearly $90. The increase in room rates, combined with an increase in occupancy to 63 percent for the entire year, result in a RevPAR during 2005 of over $57, up from the previous high of $55 set in 2000. Although the industry grew across the board in the mid-2000s, full-service resorts, mid-price, and luxury brands outperformed other sectors.

During the recession of the early 2000s hotels cut costs primarily by cutting staff. They also deferred renovation and refinishing projects. As the industry recovered during the mid-2000s, hotel owners were considering how best to reinvest the increased revenues. Staffing and employee-related expenses was one of the biggest concerns for the industry as upward wage pressure began to increase operating costs. In addition, several major brands, including the Marriott and Hilton, were in the process of upgrading their networking technology to provide a seamless, integrated communication system among their properties.

On-line advertising and bookings continued to increase rapidly during the mid-2000s. In 2005 approximately 25 percent of all hotel reservations in the United States were made over the Internet and in another 25 percent of cases, guests first reviewed hotel and rate information on the Internet before booking over the phone. In addition, because, according to Forrester Research, 80 percent of all Web visits originate from a search engine, search engine optimization became a key advertising issue for the industry. "The potential of newly revved-up search engines offers the expanded reach and capture hoteliers can exploit to the fullest against a backdrop of growing demand," Mary Scoviak noted in Hotels in March 2005. "To make the most of search engines' upside, hotels are scrambling to find the right strategies to maximize returns from organic listings, paid inclusion and keyword buys." Keywords purchases were estimated to account for about half of all online advertising dollars in 2005. The phrase "cheap hotel" was one of the most expensive keywords on the popular Google search engine. However, as demand for rooms increased, advertising dollars were focused more on the pleasures and benefits of travel rather than promoting the lowest rates.

Current Conditions

Although the economic recession of the late 2000s had a negative impact on the hotel and motel industry in the United States, industry experts stated that by 2010 a recovery had begun. According to Hotel News Now, Mark Lammano of research company STR believed that demand for lodging was on the rise and that "The 6.6 percent increase in hotel demand projected for year-end 2010 marks the single highest annual demand increase in more than 20 years." In addition, the U.S. Travel Association predicted that total U.S. travel expenditures by U.S. residents would increase between 4 and 5 percent annually through 2013, reaching $749.8 billion. International visitors were expected to spend $129 billion in travel to and within the United States, up from $94.2 billion in 2009.

Other than recovering from the recession, hotel and motel owners were dealing with the continuing pressures of the green movement. According to TravelAge West, in 2007 only two hotels in the United States had LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, granted by the U.S. Green Building Council for environmentally friendly design and operation. By November 2010, about 50 U.S. hotels had achieved this status. Another voluntary but sought-after designation, was the Green Seal Environmental Standard for Lodging Properties (GS-33), which, according to TravelAge West, "focuses on waste minimization, energy conservation, fresh water resources and waste water management, pollution prevention and organizational commitment, such as environmentally sensitive purchasing." Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group of San Francisco was one of the chains that was pursuing the Green Seal and announced in 2010 that it would pursue silver-level certification at all 50 of its properties.

Industry Leaders

In 2010 InterContinental Hotels Group, based in the United Kingdom, was the world's largest hotel company by room count, of which about 60 percent were located in the United States. InterContinental operated 4,400 properties in 100 countries and its mainstay brands included Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express. Other chains owned by InterContinental included Staybridge Suites, Crowne Plaza, and Candlewood Suites. In 2009 InterContinental reported total revenues of $1.5 billion.

Former industry leader Cendant Corporation, which operated such well-known brands as Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Knights Inn, Super 8, Travelodge, Ramada, Wingate Inns, Villager, and AmeriHost, suffered from a scandal involving accounting fraud in the late 1990s, a fiasco that landed two top executives in jail. After recovering from the scandal, the company broke up into four different divisions, of which one was hospitality, renamed Wyndham Worldwide in 2006. By 2009, Wyndham owned 7,000 franchised hotels comprising 590,000 rooms. Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Ramada, and Super 8 remained its top brands. Overall sales for the company, which was headquartered in Parsippany, New Jersey, totaled more than $3.7 billion in 2009.

Marriott International, Inc., headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, was another significant player in the industry in the early 2010s, with 3,400 properties in 65 countries. The company's product line included Marriott Hotels, Resorts, and Suites and Ritz Carlton (full service); Courtyard hotels (moderate price); Residence Inn (extended stay); Fairfield Inn (economy segment); as well as Renaissance Hotels and Resorts/Ramada International; TownePlace Suites by Marriott; Spring Hill Suites by Marriott; and Marriott Conference Centers. Marriott International was formed in October 1993, when Marriott Corp. was divided into two companies. Host Marriott Corporation was established to concentrate on real estate and airport concessions, while Marriott International focused on the lodging industry. In 2009 Marriott International had sales of $10.9 billion.

Choice Hotels, of Silver Spring, Maryland, operated under the names of Clarion, Comfort Inns & Suites, Econo Lodge, MainStay Suites, Quality Inn, Rodeway Inn, and Sleep Inn. Choice Hotels had 6,000 locations in 40 countries and 2009 revenues of more than $564 million. Hilton Worldwide (formerly Hilton Hotels) of McLean, Virginia, operated 3,500 hotels, including Doubletree, Embassy Suites, and Hampton, in addition to Hiltons, in about 80 countries. The firm also owned the Waldorf-Astoria and the New York Hilton. Revenues for Hilton reached $7.7 billion in 2009. The largest hotel brand in the world by number of rooms in the early 2010s was Best Western. Based in Phoenix, Arizona, Best Western had 4,000 independently owned and operated hotels and operated as a nonprofit membership association for Best Western owners.


The AH&LA reported that the hotel and motel industry employed more than 1.7 million workers in 2010 and paid approximately $186 billion in wages annually. The industry's workforce remained highly diverse and included minimum-wage restaurant staff, room and building maintenance workers, middle-income administrative and marketing positions, and high-salary upper management personnel.

America and the World

Due to the trend of increasing numbers of U.S. travelers leaving the country for both business and leisure, many U.S. chains were expanding oversees. Most of the major U.S. hotel companies had already expanded into Europe by the late 2000s and were expected to continue to increase their global presence to accommodate the growth of international travel. The opening of Eastern Europe, coupled with the relaxation of trade barriers between European countries, gave further momentum to the enthusiasm for developing international operations.

Although global spending on travel decreased 15 percent to $120 billion in 2009, according to the AH&LA, the United States continued to hold the largest share of world international tourism revenues (excluding fares), with almost 12 percent, followed by Spain with 6.5 percent. In 2009, 10 countries accounted for 80 percent of all travelers to the United States. These included Canada (18.0 million), Mexico (13.2 million), the United Kingdom (3.9 million), Japan (2.9 million), Germany (1.7 million), France (1.2 million), Brazil (893,000), Italy (753,000), South Korea (744,000), and Australia (724,000). Other AH&LA figures showed that international visitors accounted for 21 percent of all lodging sales in 2009.

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