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“Motels” redirects here. For the band, see The Motels.
For other uses, see Motel (disambiguation).
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The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. Please improve this article and discuss the issue on the talk page. (June 2011)

A motel in Kulim, Kedah, Malaysia

A motor hotel, or motel for short, (also known as motor inn, motor court, motel, motor lodge, tourist lodge, cottage court, auto camps, tourist home, tourist cabins, auto cabins or even a auto court) is a hotel designed for motorists, and usually has a parking area for motor vehicles. In the United States, the term is considered somewhat outdated; few motel chains still exist, such as Econo Lodge, Family Inns of America, and Wigwam Motel (Motel 6 and Super 8 Hotels are two of the most popular still in existence).[citation needed] Motels peaked in popularity in the 1960s with rising car travel. In the year 2000, the American Hotel-Motel Association removed ‘motel’ from its name after considerable market research, and is now the American Hotel and Lodging Association. The association felt that the term ‘lodging’ more accurately reflects the large variety of different style hotels, including luxury and boutique hotels, suites, inns, budget, and extended stay hotels.

Entering dictionaries after World War II, the word motel, a portmanteau of motor and hotel or motorists’ hotel, referred initially to a type of hotel consisting of a single building of connected rooms whose doors faced a parking lot and, in some circumstances, a common area; or a series of small cabins with common parking. As the United States highway system began to develop in the 1920s, long distance road journeys became more common and the need for inexpensive, easily accessible overnight accommodation sited close to the main routes, led to the growth of the motel concept.[1]



[edit] History

Wigwam Motel No. 6, a unique motel/motor court on historic Route 66 in Holbrook, Arizona

Auto camps predated motels by a few years.[2] Unlike motels, auto camps and tourist courts typically provided bed and breakfast or hotel-style service, usually with stand-alone cabins. After the introduction of the motel, auto camps continued in popularity through the Depression years and after World War II, their popularity finally starting to diminish with the construction of freeways and changes in consumer demands. Examples include the Rising Sun Auto Camp in Glacier National Park and Blue Bonnet Court in Texas. Such facilities were “mom-and-pop” facilities, on the outskirts of a town, that were as quirky as their owners. The 1935 City Directory for San Diego, CA lists “motel” type accommodations under Tourist Camps.

In contrast, though they remained “Mom and Pop” operations, motels quickly adopted a more homogenized appearance and were designed from the start to cater purely to motorists.[3] The motel concept originated with the Motel Inn of San Luis Obispo, originally called the Milestone Mo-Tel, which was constructed in 1925 by Arthur Heineman. In conceiving of a name for his hotel Heineman abbreviated motor hotel to mo-tel.[1] Many other businesses followed in its footsteps and started building their own auto camps. However, due to the fact that many auto camps were havens for crimminals of the 1920s, especially Bonnie and Clyde, who had a shootout in the infamous Red Crown Tourist Court, to hide out in. In 1940, J. Edgar Hoover waged what he called “a war against motels.” He called motels “camps of crime”, and declared that they should be shut down. However, his efforts were futile as motor courts (what motels were called in the 1930s and 1940s), grew in number and popularity.

[edit] Timeline of Motels in the United States

-The first campgrounds automobile tourists were constructed in the late 1910s. Before that, tourists who couldn’t afford to stay in a hotel either slept in their cars or pitched their tents in fields alongside the road. These were called auto camps.

-The modern campgrounds of the 1920s and 1930s provided running water, picnic grounds and restroom facilities. They also kept those pesky “tin can tourists” out of the farmer’s fields.

-Before the 1930s, auto tourists adapted their cars by adding beds, makeshift kitchens and roof decks. In the 1930s, the first travel trailers became available, and this made camping even more popular. In town, tourist homes were private residences advertising rooms for auto travelers. Unlike boarding houses, guests at tourist homes were usually just passing through. Small comforts were few and far between at cabin camps, which were basically just auto camps with small cabins instead of tents. Travelers in search of modern amenities could find them at cottage courts and tourist courts. Here, the cabins had electricity, indoor bathrooms, and sometimes even a garage or carport. They were arranged in attractive clusters or a U-shape. Often, these camps were part of a larger complex containing a filling station and cafe. When the individual cabins of the tourist court were combined under a single roof, you had the motor court or motor hotel. Some motor courts were beginning to call themselves motels, a term that was coined in 1926 when a motel owner couldn’t fit the words “Milestone Motor Hotel” on his sign.

-The first motel chains were born in the 1930s. In 1935, Scott King opened a modern motor court in San Diego. In 1939, he renamed it TraveLodge, and it became the first motel in the TraveLodge (Now Travelodge) chain. In 1929, Edgar Lee Torrance built the first Alamo Plaza Hotel Courts motel in East Waco, Texas. In 1931, a second location was opened, and by 1936 there were seven motels in the Alamo chain. The was when motels were called “motor courts” due to building in a “C” shape with a courtyard in the center. Many motels began advertising on colorful neon signs that they had air cooling (a early term for “air conditioning”) during the hot summers, or they were heated during the cold winters.

-The 1950s and 1960s was the pinnancle of the motel industry in the United States. As older mom-and-pop motor hotels began adding newer amenties such as swimming pools or Color TV (a luxury in the 1960s), motels were built in wild and impressive designs. As many motels vied for their place on busy highways, the beachfront motel instantly became a success. In major beachfront cities such as Miami, Florida, rows of colorful motels in all shapes and sizes became a commonplace occurence. However with the 1952 introduction of Holiday Inn, plus the construction of the interstate, many highway motels lost customers as motel chains built along the new highways drew them in instead.

-The 1970s and 1980s signaled the age of decline for the motel industry. As motel chains such as Motel 6 and Ramada became popular, while the independently-owned motels fell to attracting long-term renters and high crime rates. However, many of the motels in tourist towns and cities still were in popularity.

-The 1990s was the start of interest in decaying motels. As motel chains started to decline, and Holiday Inn moved up to more upscale lodging, the old mom-and-pop motels were renovated and reopened. This continued up to the 2000s.

[edit] Layout

Motels are typically constructed in an ‘I’- or ‘L’- or ‘U’-shaped layout that includes guest rooms, an attached manager’s office, a small reception and, in most motels, a swimming pool, some cases, a small diner. A motel could range from a small single story to a six-floor high rise. form. The Post-war motels, especially in the early 1950s, sought more visual distinction, often featuring eye-catching colorful neon signs which employed themes from popular culture, ranging from Western imagery of cowboys and Indians to contemporary images of spaceships and atomic era iconography. U.S. Route 66 is the most popular example of the “neon era”. Many of these signs remain fully intact to this day.

Motels differ from hotels in their location along highways, as opposed to the urban cores favored by hotels, and their orientation to the outside (in contrast to hotels whose doors typically face an interior hallway). Motels almost by definition include a parking lot, while older hotels were not usually built with automobile parking in mind.

[edit] Decline

With the 1952 introduction of Kemmons Wilson‘s Holiday Inn of America , the mom-and-pop motels of that era started to decline. The emergence of the interstate highway system, along with other factors, such as the development of the motel chain, led to a blurring of the motel and the hotel, though family-owned motels with as few as five rooms may still be found, especially along older highways. Another important note is that, with the emergence of the interstate, many older motels further away from the interstate became abandoned due to lost clientele.

In the late 20th century, a majority of motels in the United States came under the ownership of people of Indian descent, particularly Gujaratis.[4]

[edit] Comeback

Typical American 1950s-style Star Lite Motel, in Dilworth, Minnesota.

From the 1980s to the 1990s, many motels in the United States dated from the 60s and earlier, were razed for development, especially along many older highways. It was then that concern over preservation of the old lodging establishments came into view. Many motels that were abandoned were then renovated and reopened to customers as either low-income housing, a boutique hotel, apartments, or was simply restored as a motel. Along the famous Lincoln Highway and the even more infamous U.S. Route 66, many historic motels were restored to their former glory. Many of these renovated vintage motels, some dating back to the 1930s, have been successful to being added on the National Register of Historic Places listing. The process of renovating and reopening continues to the present, as more motels are being bought and renovated. Since 1998, over 1400 formerly abandoned and/or run down motels were restored and reopened, some of which were on the brink of demolition.

[edit] Long-term

Motels/hotels with low rates sometimes serve as housing for people who are not able to afford an apartment or have recently lost their home and need somewhere to stay until further arrangements are made. Motels catering to long-term stays often have kitchenettes or efficienies, or a motel room with a kitchen. However, even though most of these establishments that were previously called motels may still look like motels, most are now called hotels, inns, lodges, etc.

[edit] Film, TV and stage depictions

The Bates Motel set at Universal Studios

The Bates Motel is an important part of Psycho, a 1959 novel by Robert Bloch and Alfred Hitchcock‘s 1960 film, Psycho. Film sequels, Psycho II and Psycho III, also feature the motel as does the 1987 television movie, Bates Motel. The motel makes appearances in Psycho IV: The Beginning, but is not featured as much as in previous films. The Bates Motel returned to prominence in the 1998 remake of the original film.

The scenario of an isolated motel being operated by a serial killer, whose guests subsequently become victims, has been exploited in a number of other horror films, notably Motel Hell (1980) and Mountaintop Motel Massacre (1986). More recently, the genre has been revived with such films as Mayhem Motel (2001), Murder Inn (2005), Vacancy (2007), and its direct-to-video prequel, Vacancy 2: The First Cut (2009).

Several of these horror films also incorporate the sub-theme of voyeurism, whereby the motel owner spies on (or even films) the sexual exploits of the guests. This plays on the long-established connotations of motels and illicit sexual activity, which has itself formed the basis for numerous other films, variously representing the thriller, comedy, teen film and sexploitation genres. Stephen C. Apostolof’s Motel Confidential (1967) and the porn film Motel for Lovers (1970) were two notable early examples. More recent manifestations include Paradise Motel (1985), Talking Walls (1987), Desire and Hell at Sunset Motel (1991) and the Korean films Motel Cactus (1997) and The Motel (2005).

In countless other movies and TV series, the motel – invariably depicted as an isolated, rundown and seedy establishment – has served as the setting for sordid events often involving equally sordid characters. Examples include Pink Motel (1982), Motel Blue 19 (1993), Backroad Motel (2001), Stateline Motel (2003), Niagara Motel (2006) and Motel 5150 (2008). In the film Sparkle Lite Motel (2006) and the TV miniseries The Lost Room (2006), the motel made forays into the realms of science fiction.

In the theatre, the seedy motel room has been the setting for two-hander plays, Same Time, Next Year (1975) and Bug (2006). Both were later adapted as films. Broadway musicals have also paid homage to the lowbrow reputation of motel culture, demonstrated by songs such as ‘The No-Tel Motel’ from Prettybelle and ‘At the Bed-D-by Motel’ from Lolita, My Love.

[edit] Legal problems

Motels have also served as a haven for fugitives from the law. In the past, the anonymity and a simple registration process helped fugitives to remain ahead of the law. However, several changes have reduced the capacity of motels to serve this purpose. Credit card transactions, which in the past were more easily approved and took days to report, are now approved or declined on the spot and are instantly recorded in a database, thereby allowing law enforcement access to this information. Some motels that are located in low-income areas may be places of high crime rates, such as drugs, prostitution, or other serious crimes. These motels would have daily to monthly rates.

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