The word motel originates from the Motel Inn of San Luis Obispo, constructed in 1925 by Arthur Heinman. Entering dictionaries after World War II, the motel (aka the MOtor hoTEL) referred initially to a single building of connected rooms whose doors face a parking lot and/or common area, and their creation was driven by increased driving distances on the United States highway system that allowed easy cross-country travel.
Unlike their predecessors, auto camps and tourist courts, motels quickly adopted a homogenized appearance. Typically one would find an 'I' or 'L' or 'U' shaped structure that included rooms, an attached manager's office, and perhaps a small diner. Even so, postwar motels often featured eye-catching neon signs which employed pop culture themes that ranged from Western imagery of cowboys and Indians to contemporary images of spaceships and atomic symbols.
The motel began in the 1920s as mom-and-pop motor courts on the outskirts of a town. They attracted the first road warriors as they crossed the U.S. in their new automobiles. They usually had a grouping of small cabins and their anonymity made them ideal trysting places (or the "hot trade" in industry lingo). Even the famous outlaws Bonnie and Clyde were frequent guests, using motels as hideouts. The motels' potential for breeding lust and larceny alarmed then FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, who attacked motels and auto camps in an article he penned called "Camps of Crime", which ran in the February 1940 issue of American Magazine.
Motels differed from hotels in their emphasis on largely anonymous interactions between owners and occupants, their location along highways (as opposed to urban cores), and their orientation to the outside (in contrast to hotels whose doors typically face an interior hallway).
With the 1952 introduction of Kemmons Wilson's Holiday Inn, the 'mom and pop' motels of that era went into decline. Eventually, the emergence of the interstate highway system, along with other factors, led to a blurring of the motel and the hotel. Today, family owned motels with as few as five rooms may still be found along older highways. The quality and standards of every independent motel differ so it is always wise to cruise around for good motel before settling in a room.
In seedy areas, motels also tend to be located near strip clubs. These motels sometimes charge an "hourly" rate instead of a "nightly" rate. Motels with low rates sometimes serve as housing for people who are not able to afford an apartment.
The largest budget motel chain is Motel 6.
In Japan, they still less use it very much these days, but there was able to be the thing that they called "Love hotel" "Motel" in old days.