The hotel industry is in constant reinvention mode. It undergoes more facelifts than even a pretty-boy TV newscaster. Except with much better results.

While the made-over TV guy tends to look phony with his nips and tucks, the lodging industry tends to be completely refreshed and genuine as it attempts to attract more guests. At least that's the case from the 30,000-foot view.

Taking a closer look at how individual brands and properties portray themselves when they launch or after they undergo a makeover, it makes me wonder if they're trying to confuse guests.

Classifying hotels into segments has never been easy. Smith Travel Research boils its classification list down to average daily rates. Ratings systems, such as AAA and Mobil and most internal rating systems, use subjective interpretation by inspectors to determine where properties fit. Since Bob Hazard and Jerry Pettit placed segmenting in the spotlight when they were leading Choice Hotels International two decades ago, the classification of hotels is more important than ever—at least within the lodging industry.

Three classifications that have become popular during the past few years make me at times shake my head. Whether it's out of disgust, confusion or simply a lack of understanding, I'm not sure where descriptors such as "boutique," "select-service" or "lifestyle" fit into the lodging industry.

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