ICANN - FHE "Public Comment" on “Closed Generic” gTLD applications for .hotel(s)
Public Comment on “New gTLD Board Committee Consideration of GAC Safeguard Advice” 1. FHE (French Hospitality in Europe) regroups the five French associations (CPIH, FAGIHT, GNC, SYNHORCAT and UMIH) representing the hospitality industry in France, i.e. all the professionals of the Hotels Restaurants and Cafés sector belonging to a trade union. France is the major tourism destination in the world (and in Europe), with 200 million visitors in 2011, including 81 million tourists. 2. On 23 April 2013, Icann opened a comment on “New gTLD Board Committee Consideration of GAC Safeguard Advice”, in order to solicit input on how the New gTLD Board Committee should address GAC advice regarding safeguards applicable to broad categories of New gTLD strings. 3. In this respect, FHE publicly reasserts its opposition to the applications of OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) based on a “Closed Registry” model, for .hotel (application #1-1249-36568 by Despegar Online SRL), .hotels (application #1-1016-75482 by Booking.com B.V.), .hoteis (application #1-1249-87712 by Despegar Online SRL), and .hoteles (application #1-1249-1940 by Despegar Online SRL). 4. FHE supports the GAC in this approach aiming to avoid the establishing of monopolies and ultimately protect consumer interests. 5. FHE considers that restricting the use of a common generic term relating to a market sector such as “hotel” to the exclusive benefit of OTAs could have unintended consequences, including a negative impact on competition, but also would be detrimental to the global Internet community, hotels and their customers. 6. Indeed, the “Closed Registry” applicants seek to capture the sole use of these generic terms for their own business. If the hotel(s) TLDs were delegated to the applicants, OTAs would control and prevent others from registering domain names within a string representing their own economic sector, thus leading to a monopoly on the online reservation market, on each and every booking transaction. 7. According to the economic studies from Google/Ipsos MediaCT and the Institute of Tourism, University of Applied Sciences of Western Switzerland, about 50% of online reservations are done through OTAs . As there is little doubt that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) mechanisms will favor meaningful TLDs, the operation by the applicants of the hotel(s) TLDs would exclude de facto domains not in the hotel(s) TLDs namespace from the first results of search engines. As a result, a 100% market share to the benefit of a single stakeholder will replace 50% market share of the online reservations by OTAs, with dramatic economic consequences for the Hotel Community members. 8. On top of operating counterfeit trademarks and encouraging unfair competition practice, since competitors and non-affiliated entities will be excluded from the hotel(s) TLDs, Internet users will be automatically redirected to a limited choice of hotels in accordance with the applicants’ interests, and so may be deceived. 9. In addition, with a monopoly on the hotel(s) TLDs, the applicants will be in a position to dictate their commercial conditions to their business partners and prevent access to the namespace to those who are not business partners. 10. And last, the combination of market advantages from control of the hotel(s) TLDs may create steep barriers to entry for others in the hotel industry and will ultimately harm the interests of consumers in that market. 11. Like the French Government and the long list of opponents, FHE is convinced that allowing “Closed Generic” gTLD applications will be a source of distortion of competition and consumer misleading. The Affirmation of Commitments defines the ICANN objectives which include promoting competition, consumer trust and consumer choice. Allowing “Closed Generic” gTLD applications will produce the exact opposite effect. 12. FHE urges the ICANN to implement the GAC Advice safeguards and to forbid any “Closed Generic” gTLD application for a generic term.