Should online travel agencies be allowed to own the new .hotel array of domains?

NB: This is a viewpoint by Markus Luthe, CEO of the German Hotel Association.

In October 2012, Tnooz was among the first to draw attention to the potential damage that might occur, if an OTA such as 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 (, .hoteles (Despegar) and .hoteis (Despegar).

The applicants for the three latter ones are all online travel agencies, namely 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 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.

Where do we stand now?

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.

NB: This is a viewpoint by Markus Luthe, CEO of the German Hotel Association.

NB2: Domain image via Shutterstock.

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About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are those of the author. and do not necessarily reflect those of the author's employer, or tnooz and its partners.



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  1. Martin Rusteberg

    Great update on the generic top-level domain development within the hospitality industry.

    Let’s hope that the community-based approach will turn out on top, though I disagree that only hotels (and chains) as well as hotel associations should be able register domains. Businesses targeting to service hotels might be interesting applicants for this top-level domain as well. If a generic top-level domain wants to see wide-spread adoption, it should be more inclusive as one can rarely see .job/.travel/.pro/.aero…

  2. Joseph Fischer

    Markus is 100%• spot on. .hotels should be allowed only to hotels and no one else especially not the intermediaries OTA’s. I just want to ask all of you global brands Hilton, Marriott, Accor, IHG, Wyndham and all the other global brands. You put millions in your own web sites to drive the customers directly to you. You start RoomKey to try to gain back the business you lost to the OTA’s. isn’t this your war?!!!

    Well done Markus

  3. Olly

    It’s a shame that the UN World Tourism Organisation can’t own the domain and use any income on community-based tourism projects in third world countries.


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