Travel Industry Milestones

For some time I’ve thought it would be useful to jot down the key events in the evolution of the travel industry. Fortunately, some people with more time than me at USAToday actually did something like this.  Last week, they published a list entitled “Top 25 changes in the way we travel”  comprised of what they consider to be the top 25 changes in the last 25 years.  Not surprisingly, online booking was listed as #1.  Commenters were pretty hard on the editors for some of their picks, but I’m glad they took a stab at it.

Several key events fell outside of the 25 year timeframe, including:

  • US airline industry deregulation (1978)
  • Frequent flyer mileage programs (1980)
  • Timeshare industry growth (the first US timeshare was started in1969 in Hawaii, but the industry really took off in the 1990s)

The cutting of commissions to travel agents began in 1995 and is one event I think worthy of mention that didn’t make the list or the comments.  While not obvious at the time, this was an important catalyst for a huge shift in the way people buy travel and an important reason why the online travel agencies became juggernauts.  Today, you either need massive scale to make money selling airline tickets or a price insensitive client base that doesn’t mind paying hefty service fees.

- Gregg