Comment of USTAR Regarding Reconsideration Request 00-9
Date: March 5, 2001

511 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10011-8436
Tel: 416-922-6332
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(on behalf of the undersigned organizations)

23 February 2001

(Via Electronic Submission)

Reconsideration Committee
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
4676 Admiralty Way, Suite 330
Marina del Rey, CA 90292 USA

Re: Application for .travel TLD by the International Air Transport Association (IATA)

Comments on IATA's Request for Reconsideration (00-9)

Dear Sir or Madam:

On 15 December 2000, pursuant to Article III, § 4 of the By-Laws of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and the ICANN “Reconsideration Policy,” the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) requested that ICANN reconsider its decision announced on 16 November 2000 not to grant IATA’s application to sponsor the .travel TLD.

As the committee knows, the IATA application has been the subject of extensive concern, particularly by the travel agency community, which has focused on the following issues:

1) Has IATA or its supporters demonstrated an actual need to launch a chartered (restricted) .travel TLD?

2) Has IATA developed adequate and equitable governance policies and procedures to fairly administer the proposed .travel TLD?

3) Does IATA have the broad base of support, in an industry as diverse as the travel industry, to grant the airline community effective control and substantial influence over the proposed .travel TLD?

On 18-20 February 2001, executive level representatives of the undersigned organizations met in London, England to consider IATA's proposed .travel TLD application and its subsequent request for reconsideration by ICANN. The representatives overwhelmingly believe that the three issues outlined above have, in fact, not been adequately substantiated or developed by IATA and that grave concerns exist regarding IATA's plan to launch the proposed .travel TLD.

Accordingly, the undersigned, representing more than 20,000 travel agencies in the USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, Mexico, and India, submit the following comments regarding IATA's request for reconsideration:

a) IATA's application does not evidence facilitation of previously unmet needs in the travel industry or as it pertains to travel services or information on the Internet. To the contrary, the travel industry is already enjoying a highly successful and reliable presence on the Internet, with travel consistently commanding the top slots of web visibility, functionality, accessibility, and e-commerce in general.

While IATA infers that its application of a restricted TLD is necessary to ward off travel scams and is intended to protect consumers from unreliable Internet travel sellers, it provides no statistics or evidence to support that consumers have been subjected to any major Internet travel scams or that travel sales on the Internet are in any way more prone to scams or other illicit activity, proportionately compared to other Internet retailing or e-commerce.

The fact is that IATA's application is really intended to create huge revenue opportunities for it and its "partners" in pure registration activity. IATA is a master in the "for-profit registration and accreditation business". The reality is that IATA's application is intended to facilitate building a campaign of fear and consumer-doubt about travel sales on the Internet and where .travel and .travel alone will be touted as the "hallmark" of travel retailing safety. Travel vendors large and small will be strong-armed into using .travel to portray themselves as "legitimate" or "accredited". Rather than fostering a more diverse and competitive travel presence on the web, IATA's application of a restricted TLD will lead to narrowing domain naming, the creation of heavy-handed tactics asserted over retailing independence, and the imposition of arbitrary standards which would otherwise become barriers to many travel businesses, particularly small and medium size travel enterprises.

b) IATA has indeed reached out to travel agency organizations to seek support for its .travel application. However, it is fair to say that IATA has only done so after its application was met with stiff opposition from the travel agency community. It is also fair to say that travel agents know IATA better than most any other sector in the travel industry. In addition to the strong objections filed by the undersigned, here are just a few of the public comments from agency associations which IATA now curiously counts among its supporters:

American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA)

"While we recognize the limited supply of available .com, .org and .net domain names and the need to provide travel businesses with new opportunities that .travel would provide, IATA should not be chosen to fulfill this role ... Furthermore, it [IATA] is not the ‘neutral trusted intermediary’ it claims to be. Simply put, IATA is an airline cartel. It is completely inappropriate for an international cartel to control segments of the Internet, especially when the competitive interests of the members of the cartel may be involved." (ASTA press release, 18 October 2000)

Association of Canadian Travel Agents (ACTA)

"The Association of Canadian Travel Agents (ACTA) has serious concerns with IATA's application to ICANN for sponsoring the dot-travel Top Level Domain. There are already many concerns about the domination of the airline sector within the travel and tourism industry." (ICANN Public Comment Forum)

The reality is that most every quarter of the travel agency community has filed, at one time or another, strenuous objections to IATA's application.

This notwithstanding, ASTA reversed its position some two weeks after its 18 October 2000 press release with the following statement:

“IATA has given ASTA a written commitment that ASTA will have a seat on the Board for the new domain and significant input into the criteria ... IATA has also agreed that existing ASTA member travel agents with Airlines Reporting Corp. (ARC) accreditation will automatically qualify to receive a .travel domain name." (ICANN Public Comment Forum)

Needless to say, this brokering of a private agreement between IATA and ASTA, one clearly intended to diminish ASTA's criticism of IATA's application, does little to allay the concerns of the rest of the travel agency community. In fact, to the great dismay of many other travel agency groups, this suspicious arrangement between IATA and ASTA harms the rights and equality of the majority of the world's travel agents which are non-ASTA members. This would seem to be in direct conflict with one of the major criterion established by ICANN in the evaluation process of TLD applications, namely: "Appropriate protections of rights of others in connection with the operation of the TLD."

c) While IATA claims support from a variety of travel industry organizations, it fails to prove, apart from airlines, that is has any substantive support from even a respectable percentage of the travel industry's key individual sectors. There is absolutely no evidence that even a small percentage of major hotel chains, car rental companies, cruise lines, or tour operators has even commented on the IATA proposal, let alone stepped forward to support it. This clearly raises the question as to whether or not IATA really has broad industry representation in its application. We think not.

d) It is hard to imagine that any of the key industry players, including the airlines themselves, will favor the new .travel TLD in lieu of the huge investment in branding and marketing their existing .com presence. Even if these travel industry businesses were to move from their .com identification, would any choose to gamble with not receiving the .travel name they would require? Does anyone really believe that Delta Air Lines will put at risk its huge investment in delta.com, where it would otherwise have to compete to acquire delta.travel? To whom does one think that IATA will assign delta.travel:

Delta Hotels
Delta Travel and Tours Agency
Delta Mississippi Queen Steamboat Lines
Delta Air Lines

We think the answer is rather obvious.

Accordingly, for these and all the reasons stated above, we do not, at this time, believe that IATA has demonstrated the need, representativeness, or fairness for its proposed operation of the .travel TLD.

We the undersigned request that ICANN uphold its original decision to disapprove IATA's application for the .travel TLD. We believe that .travel may at some later time surface as a viable and
needed TLD, and it may be that with wider industry support, input, and above all, a fair and equitable process for all potentially effected stakeholders, such a need which will be identified sooner
than later; however, not at this time.

We appreciate the opportunity to share our comments with the Committee and appreciate your consideration of our position in your deliberations.

Thank you.

Respectfully submitted,

Bruce Bishins, CTC
President and CEO
United States Travel Agent Registry (USTAR)
New York, NY USA

John Hawks
Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA)
Lexington, KY USA

Gary Fee
President and CEO
Outside Sales Support Network
Jupiter, FL USA

Leslie Cassettari, CTC
Canadian Standard Travel Agent Registry (CSTAR)
Vancouver, Canada

Joseph Reitinger-Laska
European Standard Travel Agent Registry (ESTAR)
Vienna, Austria

John Tollis
Australian Standard Travel Agent Registry (ASTAR)
Perth, Australia

Eduardo Castellanos
Mexican Standard Travel Agent Registry (MEXSTAR)
Mexico City, Mexico

Sudhan Thomas
Indian Standard Travel Agent Registry (ISTAR)
Chennai, India

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