See also: Travel accommodation
Hotels provide private serviced rooms for guests. They range from very basic budget-style to extremely luxurious accommodation.
There is considerable variation and many frills within these basic types, the rule of thumb being that the more you pay, the larger your room becomes. Some business-oriented hotels offer an executive level, where a steep premium gets you access into an airline-style lounge and typically some perks like "free" Internet access or pay-per-view movies. Naming for these rooms varies, with eg. the Kuala Lumpur Hilton dubbing even its cheapest rooms as "Deluxe" and the next category up being "Executive" — but you need to upgrade one more step to an "Executive Suite" if you want to actually get the executive level perks. Some hotels are now taking an active stance on being smoke free.
Hotels may additionally offer meal service included in the price. Common terms include:
Hotels may also charge a mandatory fee in addition to the standard room and board charge to provide access to additional facilities. This is typically called a Resort Fee and can include access to things such as exercise facilities, pools, and high-speed internet access.
The guide below is by necessity a generalization, as star ratings are awarded by each country according to their own rules, and the difference between a 3-star and a 4-star may be something as obscure as having a minibar in each room. It's also worth noting that star ratings are often 'sticky', in the sense that once awarded they're rarely taken away: a four-star built last year is probably still pretty good, but a four-star opened in 1962 and never renovated since may well have turned into a dump.
Note also that the ratings are weakening as marketers misuse them.
See also Rating systems.
Six and seven-star hotels
The notion that a hotel can be six or seven stars is a joke among travel professionals since most respectable hotel rating systems do not give out a rating higher than five stars. The consensus is since so few hotels really can achieve the five star rating then there shouldn't be a rating higher than five stars.
An example of a claimed "seven star" hotel is Dubai's Burj al-Arab. It's certainly one of the most luxurious hotels in the world (as awarded earlier by Conde Nast Traveller Magazine). In reality, it is a 5 star deluxe property (the alleged seven star status is not often corrected in the media, though).
The five-star hotels is the quintessential luxury hotel, offering thrills above and beyond the actual needs of the travel. They have restaurants and night spots that are world class, with food and entertainment that draw non-guests to sample it too.
Five-star hotels also tend to have opulent and expensive decorations; fancy gyms, swimming pools and spas. Major five-star chains compete to offer the most ludicrous thrills imaginable: Loews offers dog-walking services, while Conrad will let you order from a menu of pillows. Needless to say, all this comes at a steep price, and you're unlikely to be able to justify the expense of a five-star for ordinary business travel. The other downside to five-stardom is that hotels that can jump through all the hoops to achieve the rating are likely to be large and impersonal.
Major chains: Orient-Express Hotels, Conrad (Hilton), InterContinental (IHG), Pan Pacific Hotels and Resorts, St. Regis, Le Meridien, W, JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton (Marriott), Fairmont, Raffles and Swissotel (FRHI), Shangri-La, Kempinski, Mandarin Oriental, Sofitel (Accor), Four Seasons, Regent, Langham International, Mövenpick Hotel and Resorts
The four-star hotel is a good business hotel. Everything works smoothly, there's Internet in every room, a well-equipped business center, they'll arrange your airport transfer and room service is palatable and only somewhat expensive. And your boss will probably not faint when they see the bill.
Major chains: Hilton, Marriott, Novotel (Accor), Crowne Plaza (IHG), Kimpton Hotels and Radisson BLU Hotels (Carlson Rezidor).
Three-star hotels are solid but dull. Your room will have an attached bathroom and there's probably a restaurant downstairs and 24-hour reception service.
Major chains: Mercure (Accor), Courtyard by Marriott, Holiday Inn (IHG), Best Western
In this class, hotels will typically be small to medium size and offer more extensive facilities that one star hotels. Two star means no-frills hotel. In many countries, two stars means that your room may have its own bathroom and there's almost certainly a TV and perhaps a telephone in your room, but rooms are bare-bones and you're unlikely to want to spend any more time than strictly necessary inside.
Major chains: Ibis (Accor), Comfort Inn, Motel 6, Super 8 and Etap
You don't see many of these, and with reason. One-stars are not just no-frills, but often downright dodgy: rooms are barely functional, shared bathrooms are somewhere down a corridor and the painted ladies from the all-hours karaoke bar next door dance the horizontal tango all night long in the room next to yours.
Unrated hotels are a mixed bag. Most, it is safe to say, are hotels that are either too dodgy to achieve even the meager requirements of a one-star — or, alternatively, too small and personal to be able to offer (say) 24-hour room service, although the service and amenities offered are otherwise of five-star caliber.
There are also selective hotel groups for smaller properties that generally select for high quality, boutique hotels.
Grand old hotels
In many cities, there is one famous old hotel, usually going back to the Victorian era, that was historically the place to stay. Of course, the newer luxury hotels may have better facilities, but the old place has cachet. See Grand old hotels.
International brands are a popular choice with business travellers, as they generally offer standardized predictability. The downside for leisure travel is that they are rarely very exciting or exotic, and there can still be considerable variation within the brand.
The following lists major international hotel brands only, with over 500 hotels in multiple countries. Local chains can be found in individual country and city articles.
Hotel Loyalty Programs
Hotel Loyalty Programs are corporate sponsored membership clubs for hotel frequent guests and are similar to airline frequent flyer loyalty programs. Membership is free in most hotel chains. The purpose of Hotel loyalty programs are to ensure that a hotel company retains its clients as frequent guests by offering added value benefits for staying as a guest or booking conference rooms and facilities at their hotels. The basic idea is every eligible hotel night or every dollar you spend at hotel brands participating in the corporate hotel loyalty program earns points, which can be exchanged for rewards like hotel rooms, room upgrades and airline miles.
Some hotel chains, particularly in the luxury segment, operate programs that do not award points, but offer frequent guest recognition with added value benefits such as complimentary room upgrades, restaurant and spa discounts, and additional amenities in recognition of the loyal guest.
Hotel co-branded credit cards are a common strategy for earning hotel loyalty points and benefits when not staying at hotels.
An additional incentive for a hotel frequent guest is premium membership. Each corporate hotel loyalty program has its own criteria for elite membership. Hotel loyalty program elite membership is generally earned by a frequent guest when certain thresholds are met for the number of hotel stays, hotel nights, or money spent. A hotel stay is defined as consecutive nights at same hotel under same name, regardless of the number of different reservations.
Elite membership in a hotel loyalty program is generally based on activity within a calendar year. Sleep at the loyalty program member hotels for sufficient nights or stays, or spend enough money and you'll get a silver/gold/platinum/diamond hotel program membership card entitling you to various perks, such as hotel points bonuses, lounge access, free upgrades, guaranteed rooms, etc. High level elite membership in the major hotel chain loyalty programs, generally with the benefit of complimentary room upgrades, takes between 25 and 75 hotel nights in a 12-month period.
Some of the better-known hotel loyalty programs are: