13 Interesting Facts About Hotel Technology Development

With the advancement of technology, hospitality industry is getting more and more sophisticated. It involves multimillion dollars investment in branding, digital marketing, guest experience & quality management, distribution & revenue, hotel system, employee recruitment (new roles are specifically created/developed to follow current standards), and so on.

13 Interesting Facts About Hotel Technology Development

Today we’ve heard a lot about in-room hotel iPads, robot butler & concierge, and voice-activated hotel rooms. There are also a completely different hospitality business models with the arrival of coliving spaces such as Welive and Roam.co and the famous sharing-economy based Airbnb. But it’s good to know what hospitality industry looked like 100 years ago (or more), take a look at 13 historical development of hospitality technology below:

  • In 1840s Thomas Cook, a Baptist preacher, signed a deal with the Midland Railway to organize the transportation of 500 members of his temperance society. The railway would offer a package consists of train ticket and lunch - Cook received a commission from each package sold. Cook effectively became the first recorded travel agent
  • No elevator. Instead, hoist was first introduced in 1832 in Holt Hotel, New York
  • The first in-room hotel telephones was introduced in 1894(!!!) - A special-made hotel telephone (with custom dialing numbers and extensions) was first introduced in 1986
  • What about TV? In-room TVs arrived in the Roosevelet Hotel NYC in 1947. In-room movies started to roll-out in early-70s and HBO invaded hotel rooms in 1976. Next-gen TV content was introduced by Marriott International in 2015 in partnership with Netflix
  • Westin claimed to have been the first chain hotel to introduce 24-hour room service in late-60s and began accepting credit card for reservation and check-out in mid-80s 
  • Automated booking system was invented by American Airlines in early-40s. Sheraton became the first hotel to install their own called Reservatron in late-50s altogether with the first ever toll-free reservation phone line
  • Revenue management was introduced in mid-80s by Marriott International with assistance from Robert Crandall, an-American Airlines veteran (God bless American Airlines!) - at that time it was called “yield management”
  • How about digital distribution? GDS were introduced in late-60s with the launching of SABRE. Hotels started adopting this technology in mid-80s
  • Fidelio is launched as the first property management system in 1987
  • Hyatt was recorded as (one of) the first hotel chain with website, while online booking on website itself wasn’t available until Holiday Inn introduced it in 1995
  • One year later (in 1996), a Microsoft subsidiary called Expedia launched its travel website – providing a DIY booking for modern travellers. SABRE would later follow Microsoft’s step by launching their own OTA called Travelocity (Expedia bought Travelocity in 2013)
  • Airbnb was founded in 2008. It is currently the most valuable travel brand with valuation of USD 30 billion (nearly doubling Expedia’s USD 17 billion and almost similar to that of Hyatt and Hilton valuations combined)
  • In 2010 The Plaza became the first hotel to provide in-room iPads (imagine Kevin McCallister fools the concierge using iPad apps instead of tape recorder). A few years later Conrad introduced their own branded mobile app 

It is interesting to note that at the time Thomas Cook started his “travel agency” the ball point pen had not been invented yet, the telegraph was not yet commercially available in the UK until 1846 and the telephone would not be patented for another thirty years.


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