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Americans please help! What is your perception of this term?
We're a New Zealand company needing to check the US perception of wording

 9:36 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

Hi everyone, firstly I realise WebmasterWorld frowns on specifics, but I don't see any way to get feedback we're needing without it in this case? I hope I have posted in the appropriate forum.

We're a webdesign Company in New Zealand, and are looking at marketing a range of local accommodation heavily to a largely US audience.

Here the word "motel" represents low/mid range priced affordable accommodation - based on a Per Night pricing setup.

We're wondering what "motel" accommodation means to the American public? Any pointers on this would be greatly appreciated.




 9:39 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

That's what it means in the US too.


 9:47 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)



 9:48 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

Great, thanks for the quick response! If any others would care to comment, that would be very helpful.

I guess I had an impression, whether accurate or not, that perhaps Americans saw Motels generally as being quite inferior to Hotels and the like? When in fact here at least, some are very close to the level of quality you'd find in much more expensive hotel style accommodation - minus the extensive room service.

Would this be a (very general) perception in the States as well, or would people tend to think of them as LOW cost LOW quality accommodation?

Thanks again.


 9:52 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

when I think of a "motel" I think of a no frills accommodation

generally when I think of a motel I think twice before booking and ask somone who would know if its in a good neighborhood.


 9:53 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

Generally, hotels are thought of as a higher class of lodging.

Motels = Cheap...you get what you pay for
Hotels = Generally cleaner, more expensive, more comfortable.


 10:19 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

Motel = generally, your room's entry door faces the parking area. Quality varies.

Hotel = generally, you enter your room from an interior common hallway. Quality still varies.

Beyond the entry method, the rest is pretty much pricing and frills. Along my path, I've stayed on the cheapola in some really clean, albeit basic, mom-n-popster type motels and I've checked out of some places that were undeserving of their reputation.
The inverse is likewise true.

Pride in ownership always goes a long way.


 10:39 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

Without wishing to stray from the topic, which interests me, I believe the word "Inn" has sightly different connotations across English speaking countries.

In UK, Inn = Pub
Whereas in US, Inn seems to have a more upmarket image as in "Inns of New England", but I am unsure as to how "Holiday Inn" or "Comfort Inn" is perceived?

And I had the feeling that in Australia "hotel" was used for what would be termed a "pub"

And finally, going back to the original post, is the term "Express" as in "Holiday Inn Exxpress" (and the like) what is seen as a "motel" in NZ


 10:53 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

Some excellent points being raised - keep em coming!

Yes the word Hotel is used by many Australians in place of Pub. Although I suspect that may be a rural based thing. I'm sure most aussies would be very familiar with the usage though.

Any others wish to comment on the usage of Motel and related terms targeted at US audience?


 11:00 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

To me- Motel means catering more toward those who are traveling by car. (Interstates, etc.)
Hotel caters for air, boat, and car travelers.
Mo-tel=motor,motor lodge, etc.
Plus people expect more amenities in hotels.


 11:17 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

When you get to your destination you stay in a hotel.

When you just need a bed, motel.


 11:28 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

There are no hard and fast rules as to what distinguishes a motel from a hotel. How one enters the room is one way if making a distinction, but there are a few establishments that use internal corridors to access a room but still call themselves a motel--The "Super 8" chain being one such example. Partly do to the confusion between what makes a hotel and what makes a motel, some places have started using the term "inn" or "suits" instead.

I guess one way to make a distinction between the two is based on other accommodations. At a motel, you may find a swimming pool, a vending area, continental breakfast with coffee, and maybe laundry service. Some motels will also let you rent movies or video games from a select list. Oh, one other thing, motels are generally no talker then 3 stories, with 1 to 2 stories being typical.

Hotels will more then likely have a gift shop, a restaurant inside and some form of room service. They may also have several meeting rooms or even convention space. Also, whatever you can find in a typical motel, you will also be able to find at a hotel.

But again, these are just rudimentary guidelines. Some hotels done have a restaurant, a gift shop, or even room service and there are some motels that may have a restaurant or a gift shop attached and may have some rudimentary room service--such as providing items such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, hair brushes, shaving cream, etc.


 11:41 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

Quality-wise, there are always exeptions. I once stayed a night @ a beachside motel that was $249.
And every major city has an area with seedy, derelict-type $19 hotels in it. )


 9:07 am on Mar 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

Spend some time on a few of the bigger accommodation affiliate sites... they will usually have an explanation of the terminology used when classifying properties.

I am more familiar with the meaning of hotels/comdominiums/resorts/serviced apartments/vacation rentals.. but I am 90% sure that most people associate "motel" with being drive-in accommodation. The term "motor inn" also fits the same profile.

It has nothing to do with standard of accommodation... some motor inns offer high quality lodging.... and some are flea pits. Same with all accommodation categories... you get what you pay for, no matter what the category may be.


 4:35 pm on Mar 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

When we are travelling, we generally pick motels, because its a lot easier to sneak you dog in.

So my defintion of a motel, is where you can sneak your pet in without hassle from the management.

Our dog does not bark and does not make a mess, so we reclassify our dog as a well-behaived child.

too much information

 4:42 pm on Mar 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

lgn1, I think you are talking about more of a 'Bed and Biscuit' ;o)


 9:52 pm on Mar 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

Hey thanks everyone - really helpful to hear the US take on motels/hotels.

If anyone else would like to comment, please do! Very helpful to more than a few people I would imagine.



 10:04 pm on Mar 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

Well, I'm a little surprised at the response because to me a motel is a "motor hotel"

Hotels may be anything from two or three stories to 100 stories. A Motel is what I have always believed you drive up to the door of your room and park directly in front. Its usually all on one level.

Motor Hotels or "motels" are usually situated on major highways and strategic off ramps. They are intended as one night pit stops on your way to your final destination. Hotels are usually situated in city centers or vacation destinations.

Forgive me if I have been labouring under a misunderstanding of the word all my life ... but in Canada, that is the general interpretation!

<added> I just looked it up in the dictionary because I was beginning to question my own understanding of the word. Unfortunately, as a Canadian, I don't have a Webster's Dictionary so the meaning in the US may be somewhat different.

The Oxford Dictionary states: A roadside hotel providing accommodation for motorists and parking for their vehicles. Combination: Motor + Hotel = Motel.


 10:28 pm on Mar 3, 2005 (gmt 0)


It was Churchill who said that Britain and America were two nations separated by a common language. And in this case nearly every English speaking nation has its own slant on words to describe accommodation.

Thing is, when aiming a web site at another nation, you need to know how they perceive the word, not how you peceive it. An Australian can visualise a "hotel" as a spit and sawdust pub, a New Zealander sees a "motel" as something much more up market than an American, an American sees a "Bed and Breakfast" as something more upmarket than a Brit.

Its these shades of meaning that make it important to write for your intended market, not your own country ;)


 10:34 pm on Mar 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

Its these shades of meaning that make it important to write for your intended market, not your own country

You're absolutely right and I completely agree. I was just surprised as all my life, I had a completely different understanding of the word.

Case in point: The heading of this thread contains the phrase "Americans please help!"

Many people from the U.S. assume this means them and only them. As Canada is sutuated in North America, many of us (depending upon our age bracket) also consider ourselves Americans, though we understand that to a US resident ... we are just Canucks! ;)

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