Domain names for the hotel business

top-level domains

.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.

ICANN approves application window for .HOTEL and others

The Internet’s global administration agency on Monday approved to open an application window for new web suffixes, also called top-level domains. Our .HOTEL will be one among many others, also extensions for hotel brand like .hilton or .marriott will be possible with this biggest ever shake-up in the addressing of websites.

The California based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and its multi-stakeholder community voted overwhelmingly this step at its meeting in Singapore .

By the decision domain names with the extension .hotel (“dothotel”) will become availiable likely from early 2013. See our ICANN timeline for .hotel below:

 

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”.

 

Pre-Registration of .HOTEL domain names started

Recently some of the leading domain name registrars have started to accept pre-registrations for .hotel® , .shop, .nyc and other domain names. The pre-registrations are free of cost for now, but if successfully processed, an annual domain name fee will come with a .hotel domain name registration. According to United Domains AG, one of the global registrars, the pre-registration option offers advantages:

Secure your chance to own one of the upcoming new top-level domains by pre-registering your desired domain name now. We will attempt to register your reserved domains as soon as this becomes possible thereby increasing your chances of owing one of the new TLDs. Additionally, by pre-registering, you won’t miss any of the registration deadlines. The pre-registration process is free; no processing fees will apply. Only in the case that you do wish to register any reserved domains will you be charged a fee. Unfortunately there is no guarantee that we can successfully register all desired, pre-registered domains.

https://www.uniteddomains.com/new-top-level-domain/hotel-domain-registration/

 

HOTEL Top-Level-Domain Advisory Board constituted

HOTEL Top-Level-Domain held the first meeting of its international Advisory Board at the International Tourist Fair ITB in Berlin on March 9, 2011. The Board shall advise, support and make recommendations for the policies and operations of the coming .hotel Top-Level-Domain which will provide an exclusive name space for the global hotel industry. The international composition of the .hotel Advisory Board is designed to ensure that the interests of the global hotel community are being represented in a balanced way.

The board members each represent significant parts of the global hotel community, with one member representing the domain name business. The founding members are:

  • Dr Ghassan Aidi, President of the International Hotel & Restaurant Association IH&RA,
  • Joe McInerney, President and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association AH&LA,
  • Markus Luthe, member of the executive committee of the European hotel association HOTREC (Hotels, Restaurants & Cafés in Europe),
  • and Philipp Grabensee, Chairman of the Board of Afilias for the domain name industry.

Fritz Dreesen, President of the German hotel association IHA, attended the meeting as an observer.

 

From left to right: Markus Luthe (Member of Executive Committee HOTREC), Katrin Ohlmer (Managing Director HOTEL Top-Level-Domain), Fritz G. Dreesen (Chair of the Board IHA), Johannes Lenz-Hawliczek (Managing Director HOTEL Top-Level-Domain), Phillip Grabensee (Chair of the Board, Afilias), Joseph A. McInerney (President and CEO AH&LA)


A central task for the board will be to help design the registration policies of the new name space in order to protect the legitimate rights of trademark and brand owners from the hotel industry. Guided by globally recognized best practices for brand protection and the participation in the creation of Rights Protection Mechanisms (RPMs) at the global oversight organization for all top-level domains, ICANN (Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers, www.icann.org), HOTEL Top-Level-Domain will implement measures to prevent cyber-squatting in the .hotel namespace.

Beyond the RPMs that ICANN will deploy in new namespaces .hotel will create a protected Hotel Marks list. Trademarks of large hotel chains will be put on a list of reserved names, thus ensuring that only the legitimate rights holder is able to register these names as a .hotel domain name.

The concept of this protection mechanism was already announced at the 39th meeting of ICANN in Cartagena in December 2010, where .hotel managing director Johannes Lenz-Hawliczek told a global audience: “We understand the concerns of trademark owners with regard to defensive registrations and we have discussed this issue with our partners in the hotel industry. As a consequence, we have created a protected names list, which includes the trademarks of the largest hotel companies.”

 

.hotel at World Hotel Congress in Belgrade

Our .hotel top-level domain project had been invited at the 47th Annual Congress took place between the 18th and 21st of January 2010 at the Continental Hotel in Belgrade, Serbia. With the start of the new decade, the Congress had highlighted the future of the hospitality industry. Belgrade, Serbia perfectly embodied this year’s theme of looking towards the future for opportunities of growth and development in the hotel industry.

We had the opportunity to present the .hotel TLD to a large audience and discuss numerous questions which where asked by the participants. Topic like the protection of hotel brand trademarks came up and requests when and where .hotel domain names will be available.

HOTEL Top-Level Domain managing directors Johannes Lenz-Hawliczek and Katrin Ohlmer at the IH-RA Board Meeting after the presentation on the benefits of .hotel for the global hotel industry.

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!

.hotel at ICANN Sydney

icann_meeting_syd_logo1Members of our team were present at the ICANN meeting in Sydney to promote the .hotel top-level domain to ICANN directors, registrars and other relevant parties. We also collected feedback from the users community and discussed policy topics for the hotel domain.

Concerns were raised on the timeline for the introduction of new top-level domains including .hotel, the very high costs for the application and the reservation on several domain names like france.hotel by governments. We are confident to find a compromise on these issues to make the .hotel top-level domain a success for the hotel industry and its customers.

ICANN delays timeline for .hotel introduction

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has delayed the application window for new top-level domains to late first quarter of 2010.

timeline-dothotel-2009-05-08-en2