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Travel is so commonplace and easy in today’s world, most people don’t stop to thing about the evolution of the travel industry. Just how far have we come? Where did we start? Read our ultimate guide below for a history on our current travel and reservation system, which ultimately changed how we work and live.

Historical highlights in the evolution of the travel industry:

  • In 1841, Thomas Cook, a Baptist preacher, struck a deal with the Midland Railway to organize the transportation of members of his temperance society. Cook received a commission from the railway and effectively became the first recorded travel agent.
  • The rapid growth of the airlines began in the 1920s and Delta, American, and PanAm were formed at this time.
  • Joe Saunders, an entrepreneur from Omaha, started an “Automobile for Hire” business that is recognized as being the first recorded car rental company.
  • Later that decade, John Hertz would purchase one of Saunders’ competitors and form the Hertz company.

The evolution of travel technology and reservation systems:

In 1952, American Airlines installed the Magnetronic Reservisor. This is an electromechanical system of vacuum tubes and a magnetic storage drum. It allowed the airline to store seat availability on a centralized platform.

  • Around the same time, Trans Canada Airlines (TCA), in conjunction with the University of Toronto, developed the world’s first computerized reservation system. Called Reservations Electronically Controlled, it was commonly known as the Reservec.
  • American Airlines, aware of the early Reservec success, invested in the development of their own computerized reservation system.  In partnership with IBM, they developed the Sabre computer reservation system. Used by travel agents, it acted as a clearing house for US travel.
  • By late 1970s, reservation terminals were installed in travel agencies across the US.
  • Meanwhile, Sabre, in partnership with the growing computer network services business, Compuserve, provided the first known instance of online bookings for both airlines and hotels via EAASY Sabre.
  • The increase in travel agent hotel reservations and the advent of smaller and more powerful desktop computer systems prompted the creation of hotel reservation systems. Now, the reservation systems could be located at the hotel front desk, increasing convenience.
  • In 1996, a small division of Microsoft, called Expedia, launched its website offering online bookings for air, hotels, and car rentals.
  • Later that year, Travelocity, owned by Sabre, launched its own site to help the “do-it-yourself traveler.”
  • The co-founders of Orbitz and Experdia realized consumers were shopping across multiple websites looking for deals on airline fares. They developed Kayak, allowing customers to find airline pricing results across multiple sites with one search. This model is known as metasearch.

Today, the travel industry has morphed into a combination of self-service internet tools  and full-service travel management companies. One suits the ‘do-it-yourself’ traveler, while the other manages travel for businesses and organizations. Christopherson Business Travel provides a crossover with our proprietary travel technology known as AirPortal®. We manage travel for busy companies, but provide simple and straight-forward technology so they can easily book travel themselves too.

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