Hotel vs resort

The main difference between a hotel and resort is the amenities provided at the property. Resorts tend to act as a destination in itself with much more grounds to cover, while hotels usually tend to be seen as simple and comfortable accommodation in a location for travellers looking for a convenient stay.

Essentially, resorts serve as spacious and luxurious locations that offer guests everything they may need for their holiday in one place such as spas and sports centers, among others.

Read on to learn about all the differences between a hotel and resort and ultimately how you should be positioning your property.

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What is a hotel?

A hotel is a property built to provide paid overnight accommodation for everyday travellers and tourists. Facilities in a hotel vary between properties, each one offering different services and amenities for guests or classified with a specific guest they target. For example, family-friendly hotels may have dedicated play areas and meals to accommodate children, whereas corporate hotels may be equipped with conference rooms and remote working facilities. 

Hotel services offered are also dependent on the star rating or type of hotel. These services can include; spa and fitness facilities or a bar and restaurant within the hotel premises. Usually the higher the rating of a hotel, the more amenities and services offered. You may even find some hotels labelled as a resort due to services and recreational offerings. 

Generally, guests and travellers usually won’t find everything they need for their trip in the one hotel and will often leave the property to find certain needs such as food and beverage, entertainment or activities. 

When booking lodging, many travellers know what they’ll be receiving and have booked their hotel with the intention to leave the property in order to explore more of the destination they’ve landed in. From this perspective, location is important when it comes to hotels and ensuring properties are located in a convenient and accessible place is a sure way to get travellers to stay

Types of hotels

There are many types and categorisations of hotels which can depend on their location or size. Hotels can also be classified with star ratings (one to five star hotels) or by accommodation needs, be it by budget or reason for staying. Below we’ll run through some of the most common types of hotels and how they differ.

1. Boutique hotels

Boutique hotels are smaller hotels that typically have around 100 rooms to offer. They cater to a specific audience and incorporate a unique design, often incorporating themes from the local area, with individualised yet accommodating services. Nowadays you can find a boutique hotel in almost every destination but are more popular in trendy cities and some coastal destinations.

2. Independent hotels

An independent hotel is a property that is independently owned and run and doesn’t allow other brands or chains to use its name. Independent hotels are creative, authentic, unique and aim to deliver a personalised experience.

3. Chain hotels

A chain hotel is one that is part of a larger group or series of hotels operated by the same company. They’re often linked to a brand and have guidelines to adhere to within when it comes to the amenities offered. Some chain hotels may have the same name but are offered in different locations and can vary in the type of hotel (hostels, B&Bs etc.) 

4. Motels 

Motels are usually located off highways, offering hotel services and parking for long distance travellers looking for short-term accommodation. They have become increasingly popular over the last couple of years with the industry seeing growth of 4.4% in the US. Motels have minimal amenities offered and provide basic lodging at a low price for convenience and ease.

5. 5-star hotels

5 star hotels are the top of the crop within the hospitality industry. These are luxury hotels that offer top quality services, exceptional comfort and a wide range of amenities. Facilities that can usually be found in a five star hotel include complimentary services like night turndown, TV with free streaming services, robe and slippers, room service, fine dining restaurants, luggage storage, concierge, doorman, spa and fitness facilities to name a few.

6. 4-star hotels

4 star hotels are not so different from a 5 star and are considered an upscale luxury property that offers amenities, entertainment and activities to provide a complete experience for guest stays. You can expect high standards and service from staff, premium toiletries and bedding as well as dining options on-site to minimise the need to leave the property.

7. 3-star hotels

3 star hotels are not as luxurious as 4 and 5 star offerings but are a mid-range accommodation option that offers the perfect balance between affordability and quality. You’ll still find a higher level of comfort in 3 star properties than 2 and and 1 star, with style a focus in overall room layout. You can expect to find standard everyday amenities that can make the stay more enjoyable: gym, conference centres, parking etc.

8. 2-star hotels

2 star hotels offer the basic needs of lodging with some additional yet limited amenities such as a TV and phone provided in the room. With short term accommodation services at the focus, they make for a great budget-friendly option. Usually, two star hotels are part of a larger chain and are available in multiple locations.

9. 1-star hotels

1 star hotels provide a simple, bare essential accommodation experience with limited amenities and minimal service from staff. One star hotels are cost effective and are a useful place to sleep and drop your luggage off. It is important to highlight that by no means does the star rating reflect the cleanliness or safety of the property.

difference between a hotel and a resort
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What is a resort?

Essentially, a resort is everything a hotel is with a little more and aims to provide a luxury stay. Resorts are known to be a destination in itself and typically, everything you need for a holiday can be found on the property from food, entertainment, shopping, spa and gym facilities, plus more. Depending on the destination, resorts are sometimes tailored to a particular experience or activity such as ski or golf resorts and ecological resorts.

Types of resorts

There are a plethora of resorts that can be found in locations all around the world. Each one differs in shape, size, design and concept with some resorts taking on a theme. With different amenities offered and various booking packages and options available it can get confusing. We’ve listed some popular resort types to consider for your next holiday.

1. All-inclusive resorts

It varies from property to property, but inclusive resorts offer a wide range of services and amenities such as meals and drinks included at a specific rate. Some all-inclusive resorts will have pools, spa and fitness centres, childcare and activities, water-based activities, all of which will typically be included in the initial price.  

2. Recreation and wellness resorts

Other resorts choose to focus on a particular experience or theme. Recreation resorts are properties that combine hobbies and relaxation into one, whether that be golf, self pampering and spa services, skiing and snowboarding, wellness and yoga, fitness and so on. You’ll usually find that these types of resorts are great at boosting your overall health and wellbeing and guests tend to book for that reason. Recreational resorts are usually found in rural areas outside of bustling cities to provide adequate space and peace or in environments that make a particular sport easy to access.

3. Eco tourism resorts

Eco friendly resorts are all about sustainability, rely more heavily on the natural environment and ensure their environmental impact is a key focus. Green resorts will put a lot of focus in operating and running the property in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner, so the property will likely utilise solar power, rainwater tanks and promote green initiatives and projects in their service offering. When choosing to stay in an eco resort, you’re most definitely giving back to the local community and environment.

4. Family resorts

Family specific resorts are built with families in mind where services are focused on providing the best entertainment and support for both parents and children. Some family focused resorts may even include an amusement park on the grounds. Other amenities you may typically find include childcare facilities, activities and entertainment options. Rooms are family-friendly with plenty of adjoining rooms, bunk bed rooms or even a family suite. Dining options will have child approved menus or even themed restaurants just for the young ones.

5. Luxury and adults only resorts

Luxury or adult only resorts are catered to guests looking for a luxurious experience or romantic getaway. Whether defined as ‘adult only’ or not, some luxury resorts are targeted specifically with adults in mind across all age groups, where children under a certain age will not impact a guest’s experience. Amenities expected to be found include exclusive cocktails, private pools, spas and massages, fine dining and other personally curated experiences.

6. Beach resorts

As seen in the name, beach resorts are located on or near the ocean. They’ll have an exclusive waterfront location and view, where you’re able to go directly from your room to the beach in just a few steps. Beach resorts may usually have a focus on watersports as the go-to activities offered, however pools and wellness amenities are also popular among these types of resorts.

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Differences between hotels and resorts

There are plenty of differences between hotels and resorts, so to better understand the resorts vs hotels debate, we’ve listed some of the areas where the main differences can be found.

1. Services & Facilities

Resorts: Resorts tend to have far more amenities to offer their guests including a selection of fine dining restaurants, bars and in some cases nightclubs and casinos, full range spa and salon services, and exclusive on-site retail stores. Resorts tend to cover a lot more grounds than a hotel, providing more space, multiple swimming pools and stunning landscaping.

Hotels: Depending on the hotel type, amenities offered in hotels can be limited. Most often hotel guests are provided with the bare necessities, and in some cases additional services can include conference rooms, food and beverage as well as spa and fitness centres. The higher the rating of the hotel, the more services and facilities offered, in some cases matching what resorts have to offer.

2. Activities

Resorts: Resorts offer not only a wide range of amenities, akin to 4+ star hotels, they will also have large-scale activities that guests can participate in. Not only do resorts have more space to provide these activities, they are often located near a exclusive location to cater for guests’ specific hobbies. This includes the ocean for watersports, mountains or forests for exploration and wellness and slopes for skiing, just to name a few. What’s more, these are all within walking distance of the resort room so you don’t need to venture off the property! Whatever the interest, resorts have plenty to offer with at least a couple of activity options for guests to choose from.

Hotels: Hotels aren’t usually built with guests staying on the property in mind and so activities offered can be limited. Some hotels will tend to be located in popular areas that are easily accessed and convenient whether that be in the main city centre, near popular attractions in the area or within a short distance of airports. By choosing a hotel in a good location, it isn’t hard for guests to find entertaining things to do nearby. Hotels looking to provide their guests with a good experience will offer and promote external activities, theme parks, shopping, museums, tours and other tourist attractions within the lobby, in-room marketing or with brochures and partnership offers.

3. Entertainment

Resorts: Resorts will always have some form of entertainment happening on the property, be it live music, talent shows, mini festivals or events. Entertainment at a resort is typically large-scale and focused on providing an overall enjoyable experience for guests. Entertainment can also include activities where the guests get involved such as workshops, classes, competitions and more.

Hotels: Some hotels may provide entertainment on the property and can vary depending on the hotel type and the brand guests choose to stay with. More often than not, hotels will direct guests as to where to find suitable entertainment within the local area and surroundings. Common entertainment typically included at a hotel includes live music or performances and is more common in boutique hotels that are looking to provide a personalised experience.

4. Food & Beverage

Resorts: Many resorts not only offer food and beverage but will have multiple options for guests to choose from, meaning they get to experience something different on each day that they stay. Some resorts will offer first class dining and upscale bars to lounge in, others will provide a more casual experience or a range of cuisines on-site. Whatever your preference, there’s usually something for everyone’s taste at a resort.

Hotels: The majority of hotels will have an internal restaurant be it just to serve guests breakfast. Others may be situated in nearby restaurants and lounges in which the hotel will have a directory of local places. Bars may sometimes be attached to the hotel restaurant and in higher end hotels, you’ll find a separate bar and lounge altogether. Hotels are particularly useful for guests who want to experience the true food culture of a destination. Upscale hotels will also offer fine dining options on the property and can even be renowned for their food and beverage.

5. Types of travellers

Resorts: Resorts can be seen as a whole destination on their own and so appeal to guests who are looking for a relaxing vacation more than a travelling experience. Guests who are booking resorts are most likely looking for a place where minimal effort is required, where they can just take a break and look forward to enjoying amenities and services offered at the property. Resorts are also popular among families as it takes a large part of the organisation away from the guest and instead provided by the property.

Hotels: Hotels most commonly target and attract general travellers including tourists and individuals away on business. Guests who book hotels are likely to not be spending much time at the property.

6. Location

Resorts: Due to the size and space needed for a resort, they’ll tend to be in remote areas that are more rural and a bit further out from the main centre or area of a destination. More often than not, resorts will be found near natural surroundings such as beaches, mountains or lakes.

Hotels: Hotels have a lot more options for where they tend to be located as they are not limited by the amount of land needed. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll tend to find hotels located in city centres or areas popular amongst tourists that allow the guest to leave the property and check out the local surroundings. Hotels may also be situated near airports, however these are located more for convenience rather than based on their proximity to popular attractions. Depending on the destination, you can also find hotels near beaches, however these hotels may not have as many amenities as a beach resort.

By Dean Elphick

Dean is the Senior Content Marketing Specialist of Little Hotelier, the all-in-one software solution purpose-built to make the lives of small accommodation providers easier. Dean has made writing and creating content his passion for the entirety of his professional life, which includes more than six years at Little Hotelier. Through content, Dean aims to provide education, inspiration, assistance, and, ultimately, value for small accommodation businesses looking to improve the way they run their operations (and live their life).