Many hotel websites describe their location as a "full-service hotel," but few outside the hospitality industry may understand what that really means. Hotels can actually break down into three main categories: full-service hotels, select-service hotels and limited-service hotels. A host of cosmetic, budgetary and amenity-related differences divide a full-service hotel from its limited-service counterpart.
Limited-service hotels usually have the lowest operating costs of the three hotel categories, due to their lack of extras. Room rates are typically lower, because these hotels cater to budget-conscious travelers. Full-service hotels often need a larger staff and larger facilities to accommodate guests who require more luxurious amenities. In the United States, no official rules exist as to what defines a limited-service hotel and what defines a full-service hotel; hotels can advertise however they'd like. The hospitality industry, however, generally agrees on the basics of both types of hotels.
Typically, a full-service hotel like a Marriott or Hilton offers its guests services such as bed turn-down, newspaper delivery, security guards, wake-up calls, room service and a shuttle to and from an airport or other nearby attractions. Conversely, a limited-service hotel generally offers few services; guests get a room for the night, but not much beyond that. Travelers who opt for a full-service hotel will expect a consistency in the service they receive as well as greater attentiveness from the hotel's staff.
A limited-service hotel's budget-friendly rooms are much more basic than their full-service counterparts, which means that limited-service hotels tend to appeal more to leisure travelers, as opposed to conference and business-type travelers. To appeal to cash-conscious travelers on the go, limited-service hotels often offer microwaves and mini-fridges, as well as cable TV and Internet, in their rooms. Full-service hotels may offer more lavishly decorated, comfortable suites with high-speed wireless Internet and premium cable TV with movies and other entertainment options.
However, over the years, the standards for facilities at limited-service hotels have gone up: Many hotels and motels that fall under the limited-service category now offer a business center, small gym, laundry facility and a swimming pool. One of the biggest differences between a limited-service hotel and a full-service hotel is the limited-service hotel's lack of in-house drinking and dining options; full-service hotels often have at least one cocktail lounge and restaurant. Full-service hotels also often offer facilities like spas and banquet rooms, dry cleaning and 24-hour valet service.