Could Booking.com be a good parent to the new .hotels domain extension?

The coming weeks could see Booking.com given the go ahead by ICANN for the .HOTELS top level domain.

What that means is that the online accommodation giant will effectively control how and when .HOTELS is used, a thought that is sending shivers down the spine of some in the hotel industry.

The Priceline-owned brand is the only company to apply for the .hotels domain echoing Google’s move to secure the .FLY domain alongside a string of others including .CAR and .SHOP.

A number of companies applied for the .HOTEL domain including Latin America online travel agent despegar.

Booking’s application has provoked an outburst in French online news service Tendance Hotellerie which says it will effectively force hotels to use the accommodation giant as an intermediary.

Interesting to note that the same site also ran a story on how fed up hoteliers are with the conditions imposed on them by OTAs.

The company’s application (words highlighted in bold by Tnooz) is interesting in that it sets out its intentions regarding the .HOTELS domain saying it will provide ‘stakeholders including hotel partners’ with:

 a recognizable and trusted identifier on the internet, creating additional level playing fields for the hotel industry under the authority of a prominent player in the hotel reservation marketplace.

There’s more:

In the beginning, and until further developing a detailed plan to use this new gTLD, Booking.com’s intention is to implement a single registrant TLD.

And:

reservation and registration of domain names in the name of Booking.com. It is likely that this will be the scenario that Booking.com will put in place during the first months or even years of operation of the .hotels gTLD.

The are many questions:

  • When? An ICANN spokesman tells us best case scenario is nine months from April 2012, more details here
  • Who makes the decision? Again, according to the spokesman, independent parties are responsible for processing applications but apparently extensive background checks are part of the process
  • Will Booking.com open up .HOTELS to the industry? The application sheds a little light on this

“launch of the TLD: if and when implemented by the registry operator, this is likely going to be a gradual process, whereby selected third parties that meet certain criteria, which Booking.com will be entitled to set at its own discretion, may register domain names in the .hotels gTLD.”

  • What will it cost? Booking.com is a commercial organisation and will surely expect to make money from the process
  • What happens if hotels or other hotel industry organisations disagree with the way Booking.com is running the domain? There is a disputes procedure and further information can be found on the ICANN microsite here. In addition, an objections process for governments, trademark holders and certain other parties is ongoing
  • Does anyone care? There has been a lot of debate around the value of the new gTLDs although most will sit up and take notice with the likes of Google and Booking.com seeing opportunity
The Hotel Consumer Protection Coalition, an organisation representing 25,000 hotels in 100 countries and including many of the big brands, has filed an objection to applications for .HOTEL and .HOTELS.

Booking has partnered with Neustar, which manages the .US domain on behalf of the Department of Commerce, and will provide back-end services for the .HOTELS registry.

Booking declined to comment on how it will use the gTLD.

Interestingly, the ski industry is going down the community approach for the .SKI domain and Starting Dot, a registry business established  in Paris a year ago has received support from the International Ski Federation.

NB:  Safe hands image via Shutterstock

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About the Writer :: Linda Fox

Linda Fox is managing editor for Tnooz. For the past decade years she has worked as a freelance journalist across a range of B2B titles including Travolution, ABTA Magazine, Travelmole and the Business Travel Magazine.

In this time she has also undertaken corporate projects for a number of high profile travel technology, travel management and research companies.

Prior to her freelance career she covered hotels and technology news for Travel Trade Gazette for seven years. Linda joined TTG from Caterer & Hotelkeeper where she worked on the features desk for more than five years.

 

Comments

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  1. Markus Luthe

    Thank you, Linda, for picking up this crucial development at tnooz and putting it on a broader table of the hospitality industry!

    The German Hotel Association (IHA) does share your concerns with having the new TLD run by any OTA and therefore officially filed a fundamental objection. We still can’t imagine a new TLD to be run against the interests of the sector that it is addressed to. But there is more the hospitality industry can do against this challenge – or should I better name it a threat?

    The hotel associations worldwide are supporting the .hotel-application by the Luxembourg based company HOTEL Top-Level-Domain S.à.r.l., as Guilain reported already. This company is heading for a community based solution and obtains the full support of for instance the International Hotel & Restaurant Association (ih&ra), the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), HOTREC – Hospitality Europe and many national associations like the German industry’s voice IHA.

    @ Ryan: ICANN will probably approve only one of the applied-for domains: .hotel, .hotels, .hoteis and .hoteles, since ICANN wants to avoid consumer confusion with TLDs, that are too similar to another existing or applied-for TLD. So let’s hope that the outcome will not be more confusion and that .hotel will be the only new TLD for the hospitality industry.

     
  2. Guilain Denisselle

    Thks Linda for mentionning the source. We’re both asking the same questions.

    The return we got from hoteliers is “what can we do against?”.

    Have you read the objections from Accor, IHG, Hilton, Expedia, Travelocity… ? Their arguments are globally the same.

    Beside the “.hotels” tld, the “.hotel” tld received several applications of which one that is supported by several hotel associations worlwide. Their application is very clear about who is entitled to get a .hotel domain: hotel, hotel chains and hotel associations, that’s it. The company name is HOTEL Top-Level-Domain S.a.r.l and their website is http://www.dothotel.info/. Fortunately, I had a chance to meet their executives 18 months ago and at that time I had already been convinced that their application was fair to the hotel community.

     
    • Linda Fox

      Thanks Guilain,

      I guess community is the way forward if they can make it work and .SKI will be an interesting one to watch.

      The other interesting thing is whether hotel companies feel strongly about it to do more than lodge a complaint …

       
      • Ryan C Haynes -

        Sorry – did I just catch something I thought I missed?!

        There is a .hotels (with an ‘s) AND a .hotel TLD? If so, what a confusing mess that will be for the consumer!

         
        • Linda Fox

          @RH yup that’s right, despegar in Lat Am is one of 7 companies that has applied for .hotel, booking.com is the only to apply for .hotels and then there are also some language variations .hoteles for example

           
          • Ryan C Haynes -

            Hmmm – why do I get that feeling of dread as I look to the future for how I will book hotels? I may have to invest in that VW Camper van sooner rather than later!!!

             
  3. Ryan C Haynes -

    Opening up .hotels is another great example of how the internet is becoming categorised. The excitement probably lies in how Search Engines will sort these domains, but above all it starts to place the online world into clear and distinct communities – that too will start to see interesting challenges under branding and naming of businesses.

    The questions, rightfully raised – how will Booking.com deliver these services, and how fair will that be on hotels and the wider hotel sales industry? Adding a further intermediary that has clear and direct financial gains from the domain does beg the question – how fair this will be…yet time will tell.

     
 
 

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