Agencies Eager to Enter .Travel Domain

Article excerpt

As accounting manager, Herb Deaton crunches numbers for Journey House Travel in Oklahoma City, but recently he has taken to trolling the Net in his spare moments.

Far from gawking at photos of new Tom Cruise squeeze Katie Holmes, Deaton has been checking the Web site of an obscure New York City firm Tralliance, which hopes to alter the shape of online travel marketing.

Tralliance and its marketing partner, the Travel Partnership Corp., hold the keys to the new .travel domain name, to be launched later this year, and 67-year-old Journey House wants a piece of the action.

I've been monitoring the site daily to get that as soon as they open up, said Deaton, who also sought to raise the firm's ranking on Google. We've got travel in our legal name (Journey House Travel Inc.). We want to be journeyhouse.travel.

Likewise, Nancy Dunn, chairman and chief executive of Aladdin Travel and Meeting Planners of Winston-Salem, N.C., said her firm also would likely stake a claim to a .travel address.

That is music to the ears of Ron Andruff, a former NHL hockey player with the Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Rockies and now president and chief executive of Manhattan-based Tralliance. Online travel bookings in the United States totaled $54 billion in 2005, or 23 percent of the market, but by 2009 that share is forecast to grow to $91 billion, or 33 percent, according to a study by Jupiter Research. But Andruff sees even bigger game in the future - global online travel bookings of $1.5 trillion.

In April, the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers approved .travel and .jobs as new top-level domain names. Both Tralliance and the Alexandria, Va.-based Society for Human Resource Management plan to police their domains to exclude cyber-squatters and include only legitimate organizations in their respective industries. Exclusivity, officials say, will make the domains far more useful than earlier efforts to extend addresses beyond .com.

Andruff said a new Web directory will help drive increased market share for online travel services. An online tool, directory.travel, will be rolled out along with the .travel domain name. Unlike .com and .net addresses, which are available to all comers, the .travel domain will be available only to travel professionals whose bona fides are reviewed yearly.

It will allow the trade to have higher confidence when they're conducting business with a company on the other side of the world, Andruff said. If that person screws me, I can track them through their association. The .travel registrants also will be cataloged through an online directory and a list of associated keywords.

Whereas a Google or Yahoo free-text search would yield millions of hits in a search for a five-star hotel with a golf course and spa in San Marco, Fla., Andruff said, the directory, created by language scientists, only will provide relevant links.

You'll get a 100 percent response rate, he added.

With a reliable directory in place, Andruff also expects far more travel and tourism Web sites to blossom than the current 8,000 active sites. …

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