Skip to main content

Posted March 29, 2017


It’s tempting to look back to the mid-1990s as when the travel technology revolution really kicked into gear. Once the Internet was commercialized—and digital communication technologies started to take off—consumer behavior and preferences started their rapid shift and. Let’s take a look back at some of that history and explore the innovations that shaped the technology we might just take for granted today.

1865 – The British firm of Easton and Amos installed a direct-action passenger lift, with a travel of 56 feet, in the Brighton Hotel; and hydraulic elevators were installed in the six-story Grand Hotel in Paris.

1880 – The Palmer House Hotel installed electric lights and telephones in guestrooms in time for that year’s Republican National Convention.

1894 – The Netherland Hotel in New York City introduces the first in-room telephones.

1904 – The Hotel del Coronado in California unveiled the first electronically lit, outdoor Christmas tree.

1910 – London’s Goring Hotel outfitted each bedroom with en-suite bathrooms.

1927 – The first hotel room radios become available in every guest room at Hotel Statler in Boston.

1946 – Westin debuts the first guest credit card.

Check out A Brief History of Payments: From Stones to Phones [Infographic]

1947 – The Roosevelt Hotel New York City installs guestroom TVs.

1950 – The Adolphus Hotel in Dallas, TX, became the first hotel in the world to offer central air conditioning.

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

1958 – Sheraton introduces Reservatron, the first automated electronic reservation system in hospitality, and the first toll-free reservation phone number.

1961 – American Airlines set up SABRE’s first airline travel reservation system, comprised of two IBM 7090 mainframe computers connecting 1,500 terminals across the U.S. and Canada, in Briarcliff Manor, New York.

1973 – The Sheraton–Anaheim is the first hotel to offer free in-room movies.

1976 – Two Florida hotels offer HBO in guest rooms.

1983 – VingCard invents the optical electronic key card.

1986 – Teledex offers the first factory-programmable guest service keys to the hotel industry, significantly reducing the call load of hotel operators.

1994 – Hyatt Hotels and Promus Hotel Corporation are the first hotel chains to launch websites on the Internet.

1996 – Both Expedia and Travelocity are launched to serve “do-it-yourself travelers” with online booking capability for air, hotels, and car rentals.

2000 – WEX builds first virtual payments product for the travel industry with Priceline

Travel reviews becomes commonplace when reviewing/booking site TripAdvisor launches.

Discover 3 Ways Travel Suppliers Can Use Travel Reviews.

2003 – Hotel WiFi becomes available to more than 6,000 hotel guests and begins a steady increase.

2004 Kayak uses metasearch to allow customers to find airline pricing results across multiple sites with one search.

2009 – Intelity introduces the first mobile hotel app for guest service and operational enhancements; Australia’s Wolgan Valley Resort became the first carbon neutral-certified resort in the world, introducing the concept of responsible luxury travel.

Check out The Travel Sector’s Widening Carbon Footprint Calls for Sustainable Solutions for more on how the travel industry tackles climate change.

2010 – The first hotel room iPad makes an appearance at The Plaza Hotel in New York City, setting new standards for hospitality technology trend adoption.

See Hotel Tech Spending Keeps Guests Connected for additional insights.

2016 – Japan’s Henn-na Hotel opens as the world’s first hotel staffed by robots.

Explore Helping Hands: Robots in the Travel Industry and Q&A: Artificial Intelligence in the Travel Industry for more.

Had enough of the past? Tour the Hotel of the Future


Christopherson Business Travel

The Elevator Museum


WEX Travel