Back in early 1990’s I thought of putting our catalogue of apartments online on a website, but when I spoke to web designers they told me I was crazy. The most common comment was "No one is going to book an apartment online…”, little did they know (and if only I had known!!).
Anyway... I did it: I created a website.
Our clients read descriptions and prices and saw photos of each house. They then send a check to book and sent in paperwork by fax. Email was a thing for the élite back then.
Airbnb, Priceline, Booking.com did not exist yet. Overseas students had to depend on their academic program to find them housing or check into a hostel. Business travelers used hotels, which was fine for a few days but not very convenient for long term stays. Tourists stayed in hotels which was a hassle for large families with small children, as there was no way to cook your own meals and little space for playing indoors if the weather was bad.
Owners willing to rent to foreigners were few and far spread, some adventurous families rented out rooms in their family so they could practice their language skills with their guests. Others rented out vacant apartments that they did not want to occupy long term as they had bought it for their son who was getting married next year.
In the early decade of 2000 the situation exploded and many websites specializing in online travel and vacation rentals appeared . Now about 90 % of all rentals both long and short term are booked online, at least in Italy.