Thank you very much! Yes, I used to think that "отель" was only used to emphasize that it was not a Russian hotel one was talking about.
The instance of "отель" in the novel I'm reading refers to a hotel in Vienna. Afterwards, however, another hotel is mentioned (I read this passage only about an hour ago), this time in Budapest, and that one is
called a "гостиница"; so you are quite right, it seems there's not really much of a difference in how they are used.