25 years of internet travel

The internet has evolved our whole travel experience and completely revolutionised the whole industry. While once upon a time we’d head down to our local travel agent and browse through brochures, now we can book a holiday anywhere in the world at the click of a button. So, how has the travel industry changed over the 25 years of the web?

The internet has opened up travel booking to make it easier, cheaper, and more readily available to everyone. In 1994, Travelweb.com set up the first web listing of hotels, and soon expanded to offer customers booking options too. In 1995, the first flight was booked online, a journey from San Francisco to Las Vegas.

The travel industry was then turned upside-down by the easyJet model; cheap flights, booked online, soon took off and became the norm. Now, with ever more powerful search capabilities, you can compare flights, hotels, and more through sites such as Trivago and Skyscanner. The internet lets customers shop around, making it all the more important for operators to offer the best deals as it’s just so easy to go elsewhere. Lastminute.com was one of the first online travel agents, and helped to cement the idea of booking online in the minds of customers.

Travel is now something you can book last minute, at the click of a button, and at your convenience.

The web has also created a whole new consideration for travel companies; the online review. Growing from the first travel blogs of the mid-1990s, there’s now a review-culture surrounding everything about travel. In fact, sites like TripAdvisor have become so influential that reviews can be make or break for hotels and booking companies. The internet has really played a part in levelling the playing field. You no longer just have to take a travel company’s word for it; you can see what everyone else is saying too.

The internet and new technology are changing the way travel companies communicate with customers at all stages of their journey.

Social media is now making an impact on the travel industry, with Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and more helping people – and brands – to share the best of their travels. Even though it’s still in the early stages, some companies are even letting you book through Facebook. Social media is being used in ever more interesting ways; for example, global airline KLM launched Meet & Seat in 2012, a service which lets you pick your seat according to the LinkedIn or Facebook profiles of your fellow passengers. It’s now unusual if a travel company doesn’t have a social media presence to speak directly to customers.

Take a look at British Airways’ ‘Look Up’ campaign:

These outdoor billboards animate whenever a BA flight passes overhead, telling onlookers exactly which flight it is, adding a bit of magic back into air travel. Clever stuff, and one example of how technology can make all stages of a customer’s journey more remarkable.

Virgin Atlantic have recently taken things even further, giving Google Glass and Sony Smartwatches their first passenger-facing trial in their Upper Class Wing at Heathrow. This allows airline concierge staff to instantly greet customers by name and provide updates on their flights and check-in. As this sort of technology grows, it could take on an even bigger role, perhaps communicating airline meal choices whilst in the air or even helping to speed things along at passport control.

We’ve come a long way since the days of the travel brochure. But what will be the next big thing for the travel industry and the internet?