I just got back from traveling throughout California for two weeks. It struck me how different the hotel markets are in the States compared to Europe once you get out of the big cities.
Large cities—anything more than a population of one or two million—are, in my experience, pretty saturated with international brands. The usual suspects pop up exactly where you’d expect to find them. Only Rome and Tokyo seem to have resisted the onslaught better than the other destinations, but they’re the exception.
It’s once you get outside theses cities you find the difference starting to appear. Brands are far less prevalent in Europe, where hotels tend to be located near a large amenity, preferably an airport or a train station. Once you get down past a certain size population, you’ll be hard pushed to find more than one or two small, usually independently run, hotels without any kind of affiliation.
In the U.K., some would be Best Western. In Germany, maybe InterCity, Ring hotels or a smaller localized marketing group; but the vast majority are independent and unbranded.
That’s not so in the U.S. I knew all about the numbers of course, but still, it’s amazing to see at almost every street intersection, you’ll see a Holiday Inn, Motel 6, Red Roof, Travelodge, Econolodge, Embassy Suites and many others.
In addition the sheer number and regularity of these hotels, the configuration also is interesting. In Europe, you’ll rarely see hotels next door to one another. It’s almost like the more reserved Europeans want to give each other space so they don’t look as if they’re doing anything as vulgar as competing with each other. The American approach is so much more gung ho—rows of hotels right next to each other, unapologetically vying for attention like products on a supermarket shelf.
They both have their merits, but I prefer the American way. At least you know you’ll be able to find somewhere to stay wherever you go, which isn’t something Europe can be accused of.