Today, while waiting a rather long time for a lift to take me just one floor, I got wondering. In almost all the hotels I stay in, the only option to get between reception and your room is to take a lift.

For a hotel with 10+ floors, I can see that making sense. Well, unless you're on the bottom few floors, and don't want to wait for the lift to travel all the way down to collect you! For a hotel with just a few floors, the lack of stairs for those who want them seems odd.

Actually, let me clarify that - the lack of useful stairs for getting between your room and reception/breakfast/the gym. The hotel I'm in now, in keeping with most of the ones I've spotted the problem in, does have staircases as part of their fire exits. However, these don't have a door on the ground floor, but instead have an alarmed door out into the carpark. Just what you want in the event of a fire, but not much help for avoiding the 3 minute lift wait when you just need to go one floor down for breakfast....

Does anyone know why so many hotels don't have usable guest staircases, especially for lower floors? Especially hotels that don't require a keycard in the lift

  • 9
    Stick to the Netherlands, where steep, narrow staircases are the norm and lifts are exceptional. Mar 19, 2013 at 0:00
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    @Gagravarr If I'm staying on the 1st or 2nd floor of a hotel, I nearly always use the stairs to go up & down. 9 times out of 10 its quicker.
    – Simon
    Mar 19, 2013 at 11:25
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    Could you specify in which countries this actually happens ? Because in my home country, Germany, I never saw one hotel where you could not use both (and usable stairs are always there). And what about fire exits ? Mar 19, 2013 at 14:01
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    Indeed. One could ask "why do so many people think their country is representative for the whole world". I've stayed in quite a few hotels that didn^t even have elevators... Often the nicest places I stayed in. Apr 23, 2013 at 4:46
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    In my experience, hotels in the UK and Ireland do usually have stairs somewhere. Often they're quite hidden away, but search and ye shall find.
    – TRiG
    Apr 23, 2013 at 19:00

3 Answers 3


Because they are not used. The vast majority of people do not use them. With luggage of course not. Elderly, handicapped, non-sporty people neither. The staff does not use them since they have to use the service lift. I am personally always surprised how many people prefer to wait for and take an elevator even if an escalator exists to go up/down only one floor.

On top of that, when they build stairs, they should suit the hotels branding aspirations. That means that they will take more space than a simple functional one and should ideally not be cased in with walls all around but open and light looking. But the space such nice, guest-suitable stairs (as opposed to emergency stairs) require costs a lot of money. You can use this space for rooms and other facilities that get you more rental income or amenities for the guests instead.

It is simply a bad return on investment.

Stairs to the lower floors are only available in newer hotels when there are function rooms on the one or two floors above the reception and they want to have a "grand staircase" for wedding couples or conference groups to take pictures on. And then they end there.

  • 10
    @mouviciel please tell me where to downvote hotel companies!
    – uncovery
    Mar 19, 2013 at 9:33
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    Don't forget building codes and laws that in many places REQUIRE elevators in corporate buildings (so anything not a home) if they're more than a certain number of floors tall (I believe 4 in the Netherlands for any building constructed after that law came into effect, they did not require retrofitting all old buildings). Thus, elevators have to be built and take up space and money already, so why duplicate the effort...
    – jwenting
    Mar 19, 2013 at 12:13
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    @mouviciel in many buildings using the emergency stairs will automatically trigger the fire alarm, best not do that.
    – jwenting
    Mar 19, 2013 at 12:15
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    I can't look up the reference now, but I did read this somewhere: one of the big reasons why hotels don't have stairs is that they create a branding problem because they need to match the decor of the hotel and it's just an expense they don't want to spend on. Besides the fact that stairs take up space where they could squeeze in more rooms. Apr 23, 2013 at 4:49
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    @jwenting The same building codes require them to have stairs for emergency evacuation and access during power cuts. May 31, 2014 at 9:27

If the building has an elevator, stairs are a code requirement in all but the most ancient of buildings.

Bottom line is - if you see an elevator, there are stairs to lead to each floor the elevator services.

This doesn't mean the stairs are available for general use. This was the case when I stayed at a hotel in Budapest. I ended up using the stairs as the elevators were very slow - only to find out I cannot exit onto the floor because the door will trigger the fire alarm.


This really depends on the hotel. Lower end hotels and especially motels do have stairs, particularly when they are built on an outdoor model (like an apartment complex or some area that doesn't have real winters). All of the nicer large hotels will have stairs, but as you noticed, there may not be entrance on the first floor. I've been to hotels where we had parties spread over multiple floors. Often the party goers will use the fire escape stairs to move from floor to floor. In larger hotels, this can quite a time saver. The stairs went to every floor but the first floor (because the are designed exit directly out of the building to safely, not to a lobby that might be a place of chaos in a fire).

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