Ron Andruff, CEO of Tralliance Corporation speaks to Internet Travel News about the dot travel domain name which he believes could become a new reality for the travel industry by December 2004.
Dedicated to enabling travellers, and the travel trade, to easily locate precise travel information on the Internet, .travel will be an industry-sponsored, industry-restricted top-level domain (TLD) space that will host travel-related content only.
Tralliance, whose mission is to enhance Internet commerce for the travel and tourism industry
is the company behind the sponsored bid to get a TLD for the industry. Last October, IATA and Tralliance merged their applications for dot travel applications in a bid to increase their chances for success. ITN: What will .travel mean for the travel industry?
For the most recent history, the travel industry has been warped by one crisis after another - from foot and mouth, to SARS, to 9/11. Every time crisis hits, the industry takes a blow and struggles to get back to its feet and achieve levels that it has in the past.
The aim of .travel is to establish an infrastructure within which the industry can input all of its information and opportunities for travel so that the industry can continue to move forwards through these crises.
ITN: When do you anticipate will be the launch of .travel?
That is the big $64, 000 question. We are now in the final phases of the evaluation with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and we are hopeful that in the coming weeks we can get a green light to move to contract stage.
We hope to finalise our agreement with ICAAN and move into launch phase in the December period.
ITN: How confident are you that you will receive approval from ICANN?
For the last four years, we have been going around the world meeting with travel trade associations to explain the program and we have gathered a tremendous amount of support.
At this stage we have gained support from the Travel Trade Partnership Corporation (TTPC), which represents 70% of all the major industry’s in the travel trade. Having this support makes it very difficult for ICANN to withhold providing that Top Level Domain (TLD) to the industry.
Our view is that travel and tourism is the largest industry on the internet and in fact the world (with one in every 11 individuals working at some capacity with the travel and tourism industry). If this isn’t deemed worthy of entering that top level domain, then no-one should be.
ITN: Why has the process taken so long?
ICANN as a body is a very young organisation. It has gone through a number of leadership changes and it has also gone through a great reform at the same time as trying to pass this new initiative.
We are finally at a place where we believe we can move through the contract negotiations. The key for us was getting this on to the agenda and we have now achieved this.
On the one hand it has been a long process and on the other hand it has given ICANN an opportunity to learn who we are and what we represent.
While it has been a lengthy process, in order for a TLD to come into the A route, it will be there until the end of time. So a little time here or there, while frustrating on the one hand, is understandable on the other.
ITN: You seem confident that the whole industry wants a .travel TLD. Where have you obtained this information?
As mentioned, we have been going around the world for the last four years meeting with major industry leadership. At the end of the day what .tavel has to offer is very compelling.
Starting with authentication - every TLD registrant will be authenticated by their association or by an independent third party, which will give great confidence to both the industry and it will also raise the truck factor considerably for consumers.
One of the ills of the internet is that there are a lot of scams. It can be very difficult to know if a company is legitimate or not. In the case of .travel, because everything is vetted and it will be vetted every year, you will know that you are dealing with someone in travel that you can have confidence in.
ITN: Why does the world need Tralliance’s .travel Directory?
We are very excited about the .travel directory, which will be a no-cost item for the registrants themselves.
Tralliance’s travel directory will improve industry efficiency on the Internet as travel information will be aggregated in one public directory, making it a single and definitive source for consumers and the travel trade.
This is system will allow members to self-edit through a controlled vocabulary across the board globally. This will be a directory which will also be acceptable in multi-languages. What we are creating here is a catalogue - for the first time in history - of all products and offerings in the world which will level the playing field and allow all travel and tourism partners to participate in the $150 billion of revenue that is going to be spent online next year.
ITN: There are many travel industry professionals worldwide who not know about the concept of .travel. How will you ‘spread the word’ about the new TLD?
We are walking on the razors edge. On the one hand ICANN want us to demonstrate that we have industry support but on the other hand they don’t want to promote this domain until it has been approved - so along that vein we have been working at an international level, dealing with associations to make them more aware.
As soon as we have the green light from ICANN, then association members across the board will be informed about the .travel initiative, what it is going to mean to them and when it is all going to happen. So in terms of the awareness and the awakening of the community, we have been moving towards that path but can not ring the bell until we have the green light from ICANN.
ITN. What is the estimated price for a company to register a .travel name?
In the sponsored top level domain space, a benchmark has been set by those domains that came out in 2000.
The wholesale price to the registrars will be about $80 US and we anticipate that the registrars will mock up on that to cover their costs - that could be any where between an extra $10 to $30.
ITN:. What will happen to the old domain names once .travel has been registered?
We would recommend company’s maintain their original address and re-direct users to the .travel domain. In time, as the TLD becomes intuitively understood by figures worldwide then those registrars will be able to drop the old name and just use .travel.
ITN: With more companies emerging on the internet that sell travel amongst other products, what will be your definition of a “travel and tourism company”?
A company should a member of an association and this is how I would define myself as being a member of the travel industry.
For a company that is not a member of an association, he still can apply for a .travel domain and will have to go through the non-associated channel - this means that we would physically have someone visit with that operator to confirm what they do and how they do and then based upon that authentication they would then be brought into the space.
ITN: It is emphasised that companies registered with a .travel domain can automatically be recognised by consumers as a trustworthy travel business. Who will be liable if a company is not trustworthy?
We live in a world unfortunately where it doesn’t matter how much we would like it to be perfect - it is not. When a company operates in a deceitful manner, the association with which they are members should be the ones to clamp down on them and give them sanctions. We hope that through the authentication process the level of fraud will be reduced dramatically.