Vive la Différence

ILLUSTRATION FOR TIME BY HARRY HARRISON

The mid-twentieth century, some say, was the golden age of the big, bland chain hotel. Vacationers of the 1950s or '60s took out second mortgages to afford jet travel, supposedly to find, as they hurtled from destination to destination, that a hotel room in Melbourne was the same as one in Manila. Innkeepers were accused of rolling out design templates such that no matter where you awoke in the world, the features of your room—the bedside panel, the writing desk—looked identical. Indeed, the very words Holiday Inn or Hilton took on a pejorative connotation: they were globalization's earliest villains, blamed for...

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