The Evolution of Travel

The next time you find yourself irritated because of a delayed flight, put yourself in the shoes of a traveler in the early 1900s. Before the era of mass air travel began, travelers relied primarily on ocean liners for long-distance journeys, and Low-Tech Magazine notes a trip from London to New York would take three days and 12 hours to complete. Today, that trip takes as little as seven hours and 40 minutes, thanks to the commercialization of airplanes.

From horse-drawn carriages in the 18th century to gas-powered automobiles in the 19th century to flying around the world at a moment’s notice today, the way we get around has altered dramatically. The below timeline highlights a few milestones throughout the history of travel, courtesy of the University of Houston, CNN, Motor Trend, and Daimler.


1769 – Nicolas Cugnot invents the first steam-powered automobile capable of human transport

Steam-powered car invented by Nicolas Joseph Cugnot

Image Source: PBS LearningMedia


1885 – Karl Benz creates the first gas-powered automobile

The original "Benz Patent Motor Car", 1886 - the world's first automobile

Image Source: Daimler


1903 – Orville and Wilbur Wright made history by completing the first-ever manned, heavier-than-air flight


Image Source: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum


1952 – The de Havilland Aircraft Company debuted the world’s first commercial jet flight, a 23-hour trip between London and Johannesburg

Image Source: Finding Dulcinea


1964 – Japan launches the bullet train, a high-speed rail that reaches up to 210 km per hour

World's first bullet train, made in Japan, turns 50

Image Source: Phys.org


1969 – The first Boeing 747 flight took off, traveling nearly twice as far as other commercial planes

Image Source: Aviation Week Network


1990 – Mazda produces the Eunos Cosmo, the first car with a built-in navigation system


Image Source: Motor Trend


1996 – The launch of booking site Expedia opened up the door for online travel bookings

Image Source: Tnooz

As travel has evolved and increasingly connected our world, so has our Association. Over the years, GBTA has provided a platform for managed travel professionals to share best practices, policies and solutions to the industry’s greatest issues. While these posts are meant to look back and reflect on our history, we look forward to what the future holds, for both our organization and the travel industry.

Visit the GBTA Blog every Thursday for more throwback posts! Interested in submitting a Convention memory for a chance to be featured at #GBTA2018 in San Diego? Here’s how. You can also share your Convention memories with us on Twitter using #TBT and tagging @GlobalBTA.