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The Evolution of the Travel Advisor

The Evolution of the Travel Advisor

The Evolution of the Travel Advisor

The Evolution of the Travel Advisor

Travel advisors are indispensable today. But how did they get their start? 

If you've ever wondered how exactly the travel industry came about, it all goes back to that one crucial role still very much in demand today: the travel advisor. For 265 years, they've made the plans, managed the logistics, and overcome challenges to open up a world of travel, turning dreams into journeys for customers across the globe.


1758 – India

On July 21 in Mumbai, Cox & Kings becomes the first travel agency in modern history, established under Richard Cox and primarily servicing the army.

1840 – Porto, Portugal

Bernardo Abreu establishes Abreu Agency as another first: the first public travel agency.

1841 – Leicestershire, England

Thomas Cook develops the role of “travel agent,” designing the first vacation packages. One-day rail trips turn into grand European, American, and even Egyptian tours and Scandinavian cruises.

1887 – New York, USA

Walter A. Brownell founds Brownell Travel, bringing travel agencies to the United States. The first trip sold was a European tour for 10 passengers sailing from New York.



ASTA, now known as the American Society of Travel Advisors, is formed as The American Steamship & Tourist Agents Association in order to “facilitate the business of selling travel through effective representation, shared knowledge and the enhancement of professionalism.”

Post-World War II

After suffering during the war, the industry booms under the expansion of mass-market packaged tours. A proliferation of travel agencies appears—making travel agent a viable career choice.



Airlines come together to launch the first global distribution system (GDS), allowing travel agents to view and book worldwide airfares, with pricing and live availability now on display. Complete automation continues into the 1970s, when nearly every major U.S. air carrier begins operating on a reservation system.


Communication becomes faster and documents easier to send thanks to the commercialization of the fax machine. At the same time, the Institute of Certified Travel Agents—today known as the Travel Institute—opens its doors to its first class of students, training and certifying a new generation of advisors.


ALG Vacations® gets its start as its founding company, Atkinson & Mullen, begins selling vacations. Over the next decade, future ALGV brands Funjet Vacations, Travel Impressions, and Apple Vacations are established.


Two years after the first email program is developed, IBM releases the first mass-produced personal computer, leading to a new, growing means of communication.

The 1990s

Cell phones begin to grow in popularity, allowing travel agents and their clients to stay in touch more easily. Travel brands also start debuting websites on the World Wide Web, bringing their services to a wider range of customers than ever before.


The first text message is sent, but it won’t be until the new millennium that SMS becomes a major means of communication and marketing for advisors.

1994 – 1995

Hotels and airline tickets can now be booked online.



September 11 changes the face of travel. The travel community comes together to heal and rebuild.

2007 – 2008

The iPhone launches, taking the smartphone experience to the masses—or at least those who camped out to buy it. Just over a year later, the App Store goes live, offering new mobile apps for booking travel.


The Great Recession hits, forcing many agencies to downsize. Yet again, we persevere.


Apple Leisure Group acquires Travel Impressions, a tour operator that partners exclusively with travel agents.


ASTA rebrands from the American Society of “Travel Agents” to Travel Advisors, emphasizing the value and expertise of these professionals. That same year, Apple Leisure Group and The Mark Travel Company merge. Their combined tour operators will soon fall under the unifying umbrella of the ALG Vacations you know today.


The COVID-19 pandemic strikes and the world shuts down. Travel advisors work for months without compensation.


After a harrowing year before—and with COVID still very much a global concern—ALG Vacations declares 2021 the Year of the Travel Advisor, celebrating their value, expertise, and sheer grit. In the fall, Hyatt acquires Apple Leisure Group, including ALGV, opening up new possibilities for advisors and their clients.


As we stand today, travel advisors are found both online and in brick-and-mortar stores all around the world, earning an impressive $475 billion each year. Roughly 201,000 businesses operate within the travel market; they employ an estimated 2 million people. Every single day, advisors make travel dreams into reality.

From innovation to expertise and experimentation to a return to a human touch, travel advisors have always been at the forefront of the travel industry.

With over two-and-a-half centuries behind travel advisors, there’s no better way to book travel than to Plan with a Pro! Find out more about the value advisors offer and where to find one near you at

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