Travel | Decoding Travel Terminology: Hotels and Resorts

Ever wonder what you’ll be eating when your accommodation package includes a MAP? And what does “rack rate” really mean, anyway?

These terms and many others are used in brochures, magazines, and elsewhere, but some of them can be confusing. As a student in a university-level travel program, I learned a ton of travel industry terminology in class, and I’ll share it with you here, in a series of posts on terms and definitions adapted from my study materials. First up: hotels and resorts. Think of it as a glossary for the world of accommodations.4724252687_fb62e55027

Room types

Adjoining rooms: Two or more hotel rooms immediately adjacent to each other, but without connecting doors.

Connecting rooms: Two or more hotel rooms immediately adjacent to each other with a private door between them, allowing direct access.
Ensuite: A room with a private bathroom directly connected to it.

Hospitality room: A hotel room or suite used to entertain guests and for receptions. Generally contains a bar, seating and occasional tables. May have a connecting bedroom.

Junior suite: A large room separated into entertainment and sleeping areas.

Kitchenette: A room containing kitchen facilities so that guests can store, prepare, cook and serve meals for themselves; sometimes referred to as an “efficiency unit.”

Studio: A room with a foldaway bed or couch that converts into a bed. Can be used as a living room as well as a bedroom.

Suite: Hotel accommodation consisting of one or more bedrooms plus a living room. May also contain a wet bar, small kitchen, and other facilities. Often the best room in the hotel.2149345967_d70efd57bb

Accommodation types

Airport hotel: Convenient for travellers due to proximity to an airport, especially if one doesn’t need to conduct business “downtown.” Most offer free shuttle service to and from airport.

All-suite hotel: Rooms include a living room and separate bedroom(s). Also may have foldout couch. Sometimes include kitchen facilities.

Apartment hotel: Similar to renting an apartment, but without a fixed contract. Unites are fully outfitted apartments for travellers to use as a home away from home for long-stay holidays.

Bed and breakfast (B&B): Provides a private room in a private home, including a home-cooked breakfast. Usually emphasizes personal attention, and the rooms are often individually decorated. Range from modest homes to elaborately restored historic properties.

Boutique hotel: A small property, typically offering an enhanced and intimate level of service and marketed to the affluent. Focus is on uniqueness of the property.

Capsule hotel: A Japanese lodging featuring small sleeping compartments, with just enough room to sleep. Most include television and wireless Internet. Often accept men only (although this is changing).

Extended-stay hotel: Lodging with features providing more home-like amenities with discounts for stays over 5-7 days. Some suites may have small kitchens.

Hostel: Inexpensive accommodations, typically dormitory-style or with shared rooms. Often used by younger travellers.

Hotel: An establishment offering lodging to travellers, often multi-story with facilities such as meeting rooms, parking and restaurants. Usually located near city centres, transportation facilities or tourist attractions.

Convention hotel: May be attached to a city’s convention centre, or have a wide variety of its own meeting facilities. Some may be outside city for a quieter environment.

Inn: A small guest house or hotel. Often intimate and charming.

Motel: Usually smaller in size than a hotel, and designed for motorists so often are located near highways. Room entrances are often from the outside of the building. Facilities are modest, and costs are less than at a hotel.

Minshuku: An inexpensive Japanese inn with fewer amenities and lower level of service than a ryokan. Similar to bed and breakfast, with simpler food and meals may be optional.

Parador: Government-operated inns, found in Spain and Latin America. Usually scenic or historic.

Pension: European equivalent of bed and breakfast. Like a boarding house; simple accommodations and lower prices.

Pousada: Formerly government operated and found in Portugal, they are accommodations located in historic buildings and at scenic locations.

Resort: A recreation property featuring a wide range of amenities, facilities and attractions. Often self-contained, and provide a complete vacation experience. Focus may be on spa, golf, ski or the destination.

Ryokan: A traditional Japanese inn typically located in a scenic area. Rooms have sliding doors, tatami floors, and a futon for sleeping. Baths are communal. Often breakfast and dinner are included with room cost and are served in one’s room.3742983378_6171e1d70a

Single: One adult

Double: Two adults

Triple: Three adults

Quad: Four adults



Twin: Also known as a single bed; sleeps one person comfortably.

Double/Queen/King: Beds for two people, in varying sizes. Double sometimes called “full.”

Rollaway bed: A bed that can be provided for an extra person in a room. Some hotels charge extra for the rollaway bed in addition to the extra person charge; others only charge for extra person.

¾ bed: Smaller than a double bed, but larger than a single bed.



Single: A room with one bed intended for occupancy by a single person. Often contains a double bed or larger. SWB = single with bath.

Double: A room for occupancy by two persons. Usually contains double bed or larger. May also come with two beds.

Triple: A room meant for occupancy by three persons. May have two double beds or larger, or one bed and a pull-out couch.

Twin: A room containing two beds for occupancy by two persons. Usually two single beds, but in North America may be larger. TWB = twin with bath.


Amenities: Features that increase the value or attractiveness of a product. Can be used to describe hotel overall including facilities and services, or refer to specific areas of the hotel.

Check-in: Guest registration upon arrival at a hotel. Usually required by law, as well as for hotel records.

Check-out time: The latest hour by which a hotel guest is required to vacate the room and pay all charges. Times usually vary from late morning to mid-afternoon.

Day rate: A special low room rate for accommodation used during the day from about 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Deposit: Payment made in advance on behalf of a guest to ensure the room will be held regardless of guest’s arrival time. Deposit amounts, cancellation and refund requirements vary widely depending on hotel and season; verify in advance.

Facilities: Physical areas of an accommodation property that are built and designed for a specific purpose.

Folio: An invoice that shows the total cost, including room rate and incidentals, incurred by a client.

Guaranteed reservation: A reserved room for which payment is guaranteed with a guest’s credit card, whether or not it is used.

Incidentals: The additional charges, such as phone calls, bar bills, laundry and room service, on a guest’s folio.

Master account: A bill of all group charges prearranged between a hotel and the convener or group leader. This is the total bill of all accommodation, meeting rooms, receptions and other services arranged in advance. Does not include incidentals, which are charged on individual group members’ folios.

Pre-registration: Room assignment and registration was completed prior to the guest’s arrival. Often used for tour groups and convention delegates to save time at check-in.

Rack rate: Published official retail tariff rate established by a hotel. Usually the maximum rate charged for the room, and differs from the net rate or any special rates offered by the hotel.

Run of the house (ROH): Room rate for which the hotel determines the type of room for the guest based on availability at check-in. No specific category, view or bedding is guaranteed.

Service charge: A fee added to a hotel bill or meal price assessed as a gratuity for staff.

Services: Areas that an employee of the accommodation property would assist with, or duties they would perform to assist the guests.



Meal plans

À la carte: “According to the menu.” Meal items selected from menu and paid for individually.

American plan (AP): A hotel rate that includes accommodation and three meals daily (breakfast, lunch and dinner). Often used by resort hotels where no other dining alternatives are available. Normally table d’hôte. Sometimes called “full pension” or “full board” in Europe.

Bermuda plan (BP): A hotel rate that includes accommodation and a full English or American-style breakfast. Common at bed and breakfasts.

Continental breakfast: A light breakfast consisting of tea or coffee served with bread, butter and jam. North American versions usually offer juice, cereals, fruit, and pastries as well.

Continental plan: A hotel rate that includes accommodations and a continental breakfast.

Dine-around plan: A meal plan allowing guests on AP or MAP the choice of where they want to eat among affiliated hotels and restaurants.

English breakfast: A hearty breakfast that includes juice, cereal, a main dish (bacon and eggs), toast and jam, and tea or coffee.

European plan (EP): A hotel rate that includes sleeping accommodation only. No meals included; this is the most common rate quoted by hotels in North America.

Modified American plan (MAP): A hotel rate that includes accommodation plus two meals. Typically this is breakfast and either lunch or dinner, but not both. Known as “demi-pension,” “half board,” or “half pension” in Europe.

Table d’hôte: “Host’s table.” A multi-course meal served at a fixed price with no alternative selections available. The opposite of à la carte.


Hotel staff

General manager: Most senior executive, although they may report to the owner or hotel chain executives. Responsible for the operation’s finances, including setting budgets, approving expenditures, establishing room rates, and setting standards for guest services. Also responsible for front of house operations, and overseeing restaurant and banquet operations, guest services, housekeeping and decor.

Resident manager: Always available to assist with guest or staff-related issues. May be several RMs with overlapping shifts to ensure one is always present.

Front office/desk manager: Responsible for check-in/out desks, supervises front-desk staff, and handles guest complaints, issues and requests. Must solve problems, and usually have the authority to adjust guests’ bills in cases of dispute or overcharges.

Executive housekeeper: Responsible for the cleanliness of public rooms and guest rooms. Trains and supervises the housekeeping staff, as well as orders supplies.

Assistant housekeeper: Supervises the room attendants.

Conventions manager: Supervises convention and meeting facilities. Coordinates banquets, meetings and special events. Oversees event planning and is available during event to solve problems and ensure standards.

Food and beverage manager: Directs, plans and controls all aspects of food and beverage services, including room service and restaurants.

Catering manager: Oversees all aspects of catering services. Works alongside conventions manager coordinating and supervising banquets and other events requiring food services.

Assistant manager: May be a number of assistant managers at a hotel reporting to and assisting any of the above.

Director of sales/sales manager: Responsible for obtaining business for the hotel by promoting the hotel’s products and services. Try to attract group, convention, tour and corporate accounts. May be several, focusing on specific areas.

Concierge: Serves the needs of guests by providing information and special services to enhance guests’ visits. Usually stationed in the lobby and help with obtaining theatre tickets, arranging local sightseeing tours, providing directions, and making reservations at restaurants.

Front desk clerk: Checks guests in and out from hotel’s reception area. Also handles mail, messages, and room key/card distribution.

Bell captain: Oversees bell staff, handles luggage and other miscellaneous guest requests. When there is no concierge, bell captain often provides similar services.

Reservation sales agent: Takes room reservations for the hotel, usually over the phone. May work at the hotel, at an area reservations centre that handles reservations for a group of hotels in the same geographic area, or at a call centre that serves an entire hotel chain.

Obviously, this is only the beginning of the specialized terms used in the travel industry and accommodations in particular. But it should shed a little light on some of the more common terms that are used to describe accommodation types, rooms, meal plans and more.

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