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Reject Tralliance Proposal

  • To: <stld-rfp-travel@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: Reject Tralliance Proposal
  • From: "Bruce Murray" <bcmurray@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 27 Apr 2004 11:11:06 -1000
  • Importance: Normal

Title: Reject Tralliance Proposal

Regarding the proposal by TRALLIANCE CORPORATION for the new .travel TLD.

I've been providing Online marketing services to Bed and Breakfasts and Small Hotels since 1995. I encourage the ICANN to reject this proposal.

I have four concerns on this subject.  First is the relationship between Tralliance Corp. and The Travel Partnership Corporation (TTPC).  Second is the .travel directory they have included in the proposal. Third, the number of businesses Tralliance says TTPC represents. Fourth consumer protection.

The Travel Partnership Corp. TTPC says they are a non-profit operation, but Tralliance Corp. appears to be a for profit company.  It also appears that if the current proposal is adopted Tralliance will stand to profit immensely from ICANN's decision.  On the www.Tralliance.info website, on the "About Tralliance" page they state "In short, Tralliance's role is to match buyers to sellers more efficiently."  Without any more investigation it sounds like they are want to be the "Yahoo/Google" of the internet when it comes to travel services.

Also on their website on the "Tralliance Plan" page they list three services they will provide: A) Operation of the .travel TLD environment. B) Operation of the .travel directory operated by Tralliance and supported by a world-leader in cataloguing and search. C) Value-Added Services, that seems to basically be advertising.  Regarding item B). Is the sponsoring organization of the .travel TLD also going to function as it's, for the lack of a better phrase, search engine?  This seems to be very unfair, closing the doors to others who may want to offer that service.  Other companies that could have more experience and knowledge.  Tralliance's unique knowledge of the .travel operation and protected access will make if difficult for others to compete with them in the open marketplace.  We have recently seen the rise in popularity of GOOGLE over the original "big guy on campus" YAHOO!.  Will the .travel environment be open to such innovation if Tralliance is the ICANN approved search service for .travel?

Based on what I see in the proposal Tralliance has submitted they will gain the most by the section called "RESERVED NAMES".  I suspect that major generic domains, hotels.travel, cruise.travel, california.travel, etc. (along with all miss-spelled & unassigned domains) will become entry points into the Tralliance search engine and internet users who type in such domains will be delivered a mix of advertising and content.  This small issue equals very very big dollars.  Especially if they connect up with a company such as Overture and deliver search results based on keyword advertising bids.  Will internet users find what they expect or an advertising message from the company with the most cash.  I feel my guess on the way they will extract huge profits is correct because I was unable to find a domain name referenced for the .travel directory Tralliance will offer.

In the proposal Tralliance makes this statement regarding the RESERVED NAMES, "these names have a value to the entire travel industry", if that is so then why don't they let the non-profit TTPC community determine the usage of these names.  They state these names will be "opened for registration under policies determined by the Sponsor after consultation with the community". What is "consultation"?  Repeat why not give TTPC all the domains and let them decide?  If they place so much value and trust in this community of travel industry representatives let them make the decisions regarding these names.  The way I see it the long-term value of these undisclosed reserved names could be in the billions of dollars.  Shouldn't the community, the non-profit TTPC, have control of them rather than for-profit Tralliance?  Give those profits to the travel community and let them donate them to worthy causes.

How many travel companies does the TTPC currently represent?  If you remove the duplicates and consolidate the franchises I think you will discover they represent only a handful.  The proposal says the Cruise industry has 500 potential registrants, but CLIA - Cruise Lines International Association has only 19 members.  Can an organization with a membership of 19 firms accurately represent the needs of the estimated 500 potential registrants?  Especially in this industry which is pushing very had to have customers book cruises directly on their corporate website and not via a commissioned agent.  I feel the last thing CLIA will allow is 481 possible websites online competing with their membership.

The IH&RA - International Hotel & Restaurant Association says they represents 50 brands, what about hotels and restaurants that are not franchised?  Who will represent the interest of the small independent business?

The proposal also says 100,000 potential Bed and Breakfast registrants exist, but they are not represented by TTPC.  B&B's who make up 8 percent of the total projected registrants have no representation.  Will the groups that represent major hotel chains and resorts make any effort to represent Bed and Breakfasts?  An industry sector that they directly compete with?

And what about the industry segments defined by the TTPC that are not included in the proposals?  And who will decide the eligibility of a domain such as PaulsAsianSexTours.travel?  It could be a legitimate business and business name, could a TTPC member such as PATA - Pacific Asia Travel Association block it?

And last but not least is consumer protection.  Since the TTPC will be determining the eligibility and authorize the distribution of .travel domains what efforts will they make to combat the huge and growing problem of fraud in the travel industry?  What will TTPC do if a websites content miss-represents the product or service.  I remind you of the Tralliance statement "In short, Tralliance's role is to match buyers to sellers more efficiently."  If they really wanted to improve the buying experience they would have included some form of consumer protection in the proposal.  I don't see that protection for the public in the proposal. If they are going to decide who gets in, they should decide who gets tossed off. 

Last comment: Since members of the related groups that make up the TTPC will have first crack at the .travel domains, this appears to also have the appearance of a membership drive for those member associations.  For a few hundred bucks I can join one of the groups and get preferential treatment.  Is that fair?

In conclusion the Tralliance proposal should be rejected.  The .travel domain is an important move and it shouldn't be defined by the for profit Tralliance proposal.  The Tralliance proposal is in my mind a smoke screen for a monopoly on an ICANN approved/endorsed .travel search engine service.  ICANN shouldn't be in the business of assigning exclusive rights to services outside of the domain naming process.

Bruce Murray
ASSIST Information Services

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