What ELSE happened during the 25 years of online travel?

The Guardian newspaper in the UK asked us this week to pull together some of the milestones of online travel in the 25 years so far of the web.

How 25 years of the web inspired the travel revolution was the result, covering everything from the birth of the world wide web itself to the present day.

These are the major points we picked out:



  • Travelweb creates the first catalogue (and later booking system) of hotels.
  • Jeff Greenwald posts what is later claimed to be the first travel blog.


  • Internet Travel Network (ITN) oversee first airline ticket booking made over the web.
  • Viator Systems launches platform to book destination tours and excursions.
  • Lonely Planet makes its first tentative steps into online publishing.


  • Microsoft creates a division to tackle the growing enthusiasm for travel services – names it Expedia.
  • Larry Page and Sergy Brin discover a new way to catalogue everything on the web with a search engine called Google.
  • EasyJet and Ryanair, new low cost carriers entering the market in Europe, push their respective websites as the primary way to book flights.


  • Lastminute.com becomes the iconic ecommerce brand of the period, launching its playful online travel agency in Europe.


  • FareChase triggers what eventually became a major online travel shopping process – metasearch. Led to Sidestep, Skyscanner, Kayak et al.


  •  The pizza parlour-dwelling review service TripAdvisor is launched – hotels were never the same again.


  • One of many unintended consequences of the September 11 attacks materialises as suppliers realise the web is a significantly efficient way of shifting unfilled inventory.


  • Priceline starts heading down the road on which it eventually gives it a mighty position in the travel ecosystem – buying Active Hotels and then Booking.com a year later.
  • Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg launches Facebook, the social network that inspired generations to live their lives (and travels) on the web.


  • Apple unveils its first foray into  mobile communications with the iPhone, bringing access to the web from a handset to the masses. Thousands of travel-related apps follow.


  • AirBedAndBreakfast (later renamed to Airbnb) leads the charge of a second wave of online travel brands, bringing short-term travel rentals into a web marketplace.


  • Twitter takes hold and inspires real-time messaging and engagement between travellers and travel brands.



  • HotelTonight leads the wave of travel brands which probably could not have existed before mobile services kicked in – same-day booking of hotels via a handset.


So that was our list for the Guardian (read the full version and analysis over here).

But we thought (not least from fielding a a bulging mailbox since the article’s publication earlier this week) that there must be countless other moments behind the scenes other or launches on the web which have helped shape the industry over the past 25 years.

Some ideas:

  • The budget end of the accommodation world hitting the web, such as HostelWorld.
  • Direct-connect scrapes involving American Airlines.
  • Launch of Hotels.com.
  • Travelport and Worldspan merger.
  • Creation of Orbitz and Opodo as airline-led OTAs.

Over to you in the comments…

NB: Evolution technology image via Shutterstock.

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.



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  1. Glenn Wallace

    Here’s a few (some admittedly self-interested):
    – April 2000, Expedia launches BFS (Best Fare Search), first time customers could use a PC server-farm based fare search engine to see a larger selection of flights/prices and buy them online
    – 2000-ish: Expedia launches merchant hotel product (copied by many)
    – 2003-ish: Expedia launches dynamic packaging product
    – Priceline and Hotwire launching their opaque products (not sure of dates)
    – definitely the Orbitz launch

  2. Poke Check

    Orbitz founding by airlines and later capture by the Travelport GDS?
    Priceline opaque model introduction on line (or was it Hotwire first?)
    Kayak and other travel-specific metasearch?

  3. Milind

    also in 1999 Bob Geldolf was co-founder of deckchair.com

  4. Martin

    I would add a few but you’ll need to get the dates right.
    – Booking.com makes merchant model passé with their agency model and no pre-payments, giving a significant boost to OTA market share. In the process knocking out three major middle-men (wholesalers, tour operators and travel agents).
    – Channel managers essentially make giants like pegasus and GDS almost irrelevant by supplying multiple connections for much a much lower cost.
    – in 2013 tripadvisor becomes a meta-search engine as well and finally making meta-search the main alternative (and making it the buzzword of the year)
    – Meta-search which becomes the first time a travel specific search category provides hotels and airlines a cost efficient medium to advertise individual hotels and flights directly to the final consumer.

  5. Milind

    Dec 1995 the world’s first airline booking paid by credit card was for british midlands web booking system at the time provided by Novus (later became SITA)

  6. Michael Menis

    In 1995, Holiday Inn was the first to offer online reservations in the hotel industry.

  7. Hugo Burge

    I cannot resist chipping in as I down tools on a Friday eve. Some shameless focus on Momondo Group landmarks, which I would argue are also industry landmarks, but for sporting reasons have also included a few industry points that I think you should have included too…

    1992 – Skygate pioneers low cost airline fare sourcing for the travel trade – DK

    1996 – Cheapflights pioneers flight deals search – UK

    1999 – The year Bob Geldof realised online travel was going to be big and founded Deckchair.com.

    2000 – the year easyjet went from telephone booking to all online (if going in next 2 months)

    2000 – Cheapflights introduces PPC to the travel industry in the UK

    2007 – The year online advertising overtook newspapers in travel

    2010 (or thereabouts) – Cheapflights first UK travel Company to reach top 15 US travel Companies (Hitwise)

    2011 – momondo pioneers searching by mood/ colour.

    2013 – momondo launches Flight Insight, empowering users to find out more than ever before about the factors affecting flight prices

    2013 – year mobile devices overtook desktop

    E&OE – it last thing on a Friday after all…

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @hugo – great stuff, thx… Yes, John Hatt’s early efforts were on my Graun shortlist…

  8. Richard Barajas

    You could do a whole timeline on the life cycle of Travelocity from birth, to dominance, to it’s struggles ending with the outsourcing of it’s technology and content. It begs the question, will the Phoenix rise from the “ashes”?


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