Domain names for the hotel business

dothotels

.HOTEL fight goes on

The global travel tech blog Tnooz has recently published a guest article by Markus Luthe, the managing director of the German Hotel Association (IHA).

In his viewpoint Markus reports that in October 2012, Tnooz was among the first to draw attention to the potential damage that might occur, if an OTA such as Booking.com becomes the host of the new .hotel(s) domain extension:

As earlier this week was the deadline for any formal objections to applicants for ICANN’s new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLD) at the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), let me provide you with an update of the proceedings – and of course comments from the point of view of a national hotel association.

There are applications for four strings for new gTLDs related closely to the hotel industry:

  • .hotel
  • .hotels
  • .hoteles (Spanish for hotels)
  • .hoteis (Portuguese for hotels).

Seven applicants are bidding for .hotel and one applicant each for .hotels (Booking.com), .hoteles (Despegar) and .hoteis (Despegar).

The applicants for the three latter ones are all online travel agencies, namely Booking.com and Montevideo-based Despegar, which is also among the seven applicants for .hotel.

Among total of ten applications for .hotel, .hotels, .hoteles and .hoteis, there is only one who has the support of the global hotel community: Luxembourg-based HOTEL Top-Level-Domain.

This application is being supported among many others for instance by the International & Restaurant Association (IH&RA),  American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), China Hotel Association (CHA) and HOTREC – Hotels, Restaurants & Cafés in Europe.

The hotel associations worldwide are in close contact with this applicant and arrange the terms and conditions of the future .hotel domain on a level playing field the best way possible.

Consequently, this applicant is the only one who filed a community-based application.

As of today the other six applicants for .hotel have not even contacted hotel industry representatives. They either have a closed (1) business model or an open (5) one.

Despegar intends to run the .hotel domain – as Booking.com would like to with .hotels – in a closed way at its own discretion, which would open the doors for discrimination in favor of their exclusive clients.

The open applicants would allow domain registrations for every interested party irrespective whether they are in fact hotels, or whether they are OTAs or other third parties pushing into and interfering with the hotel business.

The community-based applicant will only allow hotels, hotel chains and hotel associations to register domain names under .hotel.

On February 27 this year, ICANN decided that out of the set of the four strings, only .hoteis and .hotels are similar to each other. As a consequence, we potentially face not just one new gTLD .hotel, but three, something no doubt which will confuse the consumer.

An additional cost intensive “string confusion objection” now has to be filed with ICANN as a consequence.

Even worse: Our European umbrella association HOTREC had to file formal objections against the four closed applicants to avoid likely misuse and detrimental damage to the hotel industry.

We cannot allow for OTAs to be the gatekeeper of our major distribution channel, the web. As a consequence, HOTREC found itself in the position of having to finance a six-digit Euro amount just on behalf of these four objections.

And this for the sole purpose of defending our generic industry title against a hijacking attack by some intermediates.

By the way:

  • Why is the favorite of the hotel industry, the only community-based application for .hotel, not protected per se by ICANN procedures?
  • Why is the community evaluation phase settled after all the other dispute resolution procedures and not at the beginning?
  • Honi soit qui mal y pense? I consider this to be either a mistake or audiciousness.

The ICANN Conference during April in Beijing is now the next milestone to keep an open eye on.

At this event the Government Advisory Committee (GAC) has to decide by consensus vote whether to file an advice or objection to any of the new gTLD applications.

We are optimistic that following the line of the already issued “early warnings” by the Australian, French and German governments, the GAC might insist on a “no discrimination approach” for every hotel, meaning that only properties themselves may register domain names under .hotel.

Anything else would be deceiving and disappointing from the consumers’ and industries’ point of view.

.HOTEL on the application road to benefit hotels

Finally the Internet regulator ICANN has opened the 3 months application window for new extensions such as .SHOP, .CANON and .HOTEL®. We are working with ICANN for many years and achieved that the hotel industry will get its own identity soon. We also accomplished that .hotel cannot operated by anyone else than the an organization that is supported by the hotel industry itself. This very good news! We will keep you updated on the progress of our application.

Domain name ranked most important search criterion

The renowned search engine optimization website SEOmoz has recently published its 2011 edition of the Search Engine Ranking Factors. For the past 6 years, SEOmoz has compiled the aggregated opinions of dozens of the world’s best and brightest search marketers into this biannual ranking factors document. This year they present the data set of the opinions of 132-person panel.

With regards to the upcoming new .hotel domain names, we are always being asked how important domain names are. The experts of SEOmoz found that the most relevant search criterion is an exact match of the domain name with the search term. That means that www.tennis.hotel is likely to get a high position at Google if you search for “tennis hotel”.

 

dotHOTEL Selects Afilias as new TLD Registry and DNS provider

Cartagena de Indias, COLOMBIA – 6 December 2010 – At the 39th International Meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), Afilias announced that it has been selected by dotHOTEL® as the registry services and DNS provider for its application to ICANN for the .hotel new top-level domain (new TLD). dotHOTEL is supported by the International Hotel and Restaurant Association, the world’s largest association of hospitality providers.

“We selected Afilias because of its superior experience with new TLDs and its ability to help ensure that .hotel reaches its maximum potential in the global domain name marketplace,” said Johannes Lenz-Hawliczek, co-founder of dotHOTEL. “Afilias has a long and distinguished track record of providing reliable registry and DNS services and hence ensures technically stable and reliable support for the launch and growth of the new global home for hotel services on the Internet.”

dotHOTEL will apply for the .hotel Internet extension when ICANN begins accepting applications for new TLDs, expected in the second quarter of 2011. The mission of dotHOTEL is to create a namespace of security, trust and credibility for the global hotel industry and its customers. dotHOTEL also plans to develop products and services to enhance the efficiency and convenience of marketing and e-commerce for hotels and their organizations worldwide.

“Afilias’ superior technology and expertise in supporting more successful ICANN applications and new TLD launches than any other provider will help ensure the success of dotHOTEL. We look forward to bringing this new TLD to market as both an attractive new TLD for registrars to sell and as a means for the global hotel industry to enhance their global online marketing,” said Roland LaPlante, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Afilias.

“The International Hotel & Restaurant Association fully supports this initiative,” said Dr. Ghassan Aidi, IH&RA President. “We are convinced that the creation of a .hotel namespace will be a significant step forward for our industry. We do believe that this is one of the best initiatives to unite the hospitality industry with electronic business under one label (.HOTEL).”

About dotHOTEL®
dotHOTEL (.hotel) is a new Top-Level Domain which is exclusively dedicated to hotels, their organizations and the hotel business worldwide. The initiative is being supported by hotel associations and hotel chains such as the International Hotel & Restaurant Association IH&RA, the Pacific Asia Travel Association PATA, the German Hotel Association IHA, Worldhotels or Design Hotels. For more information on dotHOTEL please visit www.dothotel.info.

About the IH&RA
The IH&RA is the only global business organization representing the hospitality industry worldwide. Officially recognized by the United Nations, IH&RA monitors and lobbies all international agencies on behalf of this industry, estimated to comprise 300,000 hotels and 8 million restaurants, employ 60 million people and contribute 950 billion USD annually to the global economy.

About Afilias
Afilias is a global provider of Internet infrastructure services that connect people to their data. Afilias’ reliable, secure, scalable, and globally available technology supports a wide range of applications including Internet domain registry services, Managed DNS, and services in the RFID and supply chain market with its Afilias Discovery Services. For more information on Afilias please visit www.afilias.info.

Search request for hotels

A good tool to find out more about the customers behavior is Google Insights which offers the option to select various parameters to specify a search request:

  • Search Terms
  • Locations
  • Time ranges (from 2004 to today)

You can search for instance for the search term “hotel berlin” on a worldwide basis within the last 12 month. The results are a “interest over time” graph with key news influencing the results, a world map which shows the intensity of interest in the search term, and the search terms specified into “top searches” and “rising searches”.

Google Insights is for DOTHOTEL a valuable tool to identify search terms, e.g. “hotel” versus “hotels” and the activity of searching customers in this area ans by this the demand for the .hotel top-level domain.

The graphical presenation for the “top searches” looks like this:

.hotel at ICANN Nairobi

We participated with two people at the 37th meeting of the Internet administration agency ICANN in Nairobi to discuss with directors and staff the introduction of the .hotel top-level domain (TLD). ICANN is likely to open the application window for .hotel and other extensions like .sport, .paris or .ibm beginning of next year.

According to latest information from ICANN the new TLDs including dothotel may become available later in 2011. That means that hotels and hotel chains will be able to register domain names like www.choice.hotel or www.design.hotel at this time.

The Long Tail Story

What will happen to the search engine positions of the top hotel brands when the .hotel domain names will become available form later next year? We assume not much since hilton.com and marriott.com are in the leading positions in search engines anyway. Ok, the Choice Hotels may get a better position with choice.hotel since they don’t own choice.com, along with some other hotel brands and hotels which missed to register their national domain extension and/or their .com domain name. Hotel booking portals do not have a chance to catch up with these heavy weights.

But the top brands are only a 5% tip of the over 500,000 hotels iceberg worldwide. This majority of hotels (the Long Tail) also rely on good search engine rankings but they are more than often outpaced by booking portals like Expedia, Bookings.com or HRS.de.

This is the point where .hotel comes into the game, since the new .hotel domain names are likely to offer hotels benefits for their search engine ranking. And better rankings do directly reduce the annoying provisions paid formerly to hotel booking portals. An easy but effective story!