One of the biggest travel costs, especially for business travellers, is lodging. While some people prefer to stay in hostels and private home rentals, others find a hotel to be the perfect way to rest between destinations.
Hotels provide a range of services which differ from property to property, and sometimes also from brand to brand. These services often play a key role in their star ratings and thus also in their prices. In many countries the star rating system is regulated by government tourism officials or industry associations and is therefore reasonably objective. But in other cases, the rating system is largely self-generated and arbitrary, and hotels are allowed to award themselves stars at will. Hotel services also vary depending on the type of traveller they are designed to attract.
In addition to rooms for accommodation, some hotels have restaurants and bars which serve food and beverages. Some offer shuttle transportation, in vans or mini-buses, to transport guests to and from nearby attractions, airport terminals, train stations, car rental offices, bus stations and places of interest. Some offer this service at fixed intervals, while others do it on request.
While the cost of lodging is a big expense, it is often possible to get discounts by booking in advance or staying during the low season. The latter is particularly important when visiting popular tourist destinations or during holidays and events.
Many hotels provide a number of amenities that are aimed at making the guest feel as comfortable as possible. Some of these are included in the room rate, while others can be bought separately. Many hotels have swimming pools, spa facilities or fitness centers, and some offer massages or health club memberships. Others have internet connections, or are close to the main public transport routes.
Most hotel rates include a breakfast, which can be anything from a roll and coffee to a full buffet or all-inclusive menu. Half board is a hotel rate in which one additional meal, typically dinner, is added to the breakfast. And all-inclusive is a hotel rate in which all meals and most drinks are included, usually non-alcoholic.
Some hotels are owned and operated by a single entity, while some belong to a chain. The chains may own and operate all of their properties, or they may own a few and franchise the remainder. It is sometimes difficult to discern the distinction, since hotels usually only present their own name and logo when advertising, and the terms franchised and managed by the parent company are not always clearly distinguished.