An Internet innovation that makes cyberspace a little more manageable for travelers and travel companies has made it to Costa Rica. Instead of the generic .com, .org and .net, Costa Rican travel and tourism companies can now select a .travel domain.
Companies seeking a .travel domain anywhere in the world have to be checked out and authenticated by a local tourism or travel body, and in Costa Rica this will be handled by the Costa Rican Tourism Professionals Association (ACOPROT), Executive Director Patricia Duar announced last week.
The domain makes it easier for travel and tourism companies – especially the small and medium ones – to reach customers from their own little corner of the crowded Internet.
Likewise, thanks to the sign-up authentication process, potential tourists know that services offered on a .travel Web site are above board.
“The .travel domain has to have an added value,” said José Luis Cabada, the .travel representative in Costa Rica. That value, he said, is “trust.”
Two kinds of generic top-level domains are used for Web site addresses: unsponsored ones, such as .com and .net, which anyone can use; and sponsored ones, such .museum, which is administered by the International Council of Museums.
The .travel domain is a sponsored domain. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a nonprofit organization based in the U.S. state of California that adds domain names, approved it in 2005 at the request of 120 travel companies. ICANN granted management of the domain to the Tralliance Corporation, based in New York.
The Tralliance Corporation didn’t start promoting the domain until last year. Now that the domain has a presence in North America, Asia and Africa, the company has begun promoting it in Latin America, first by selecting partner organizations such as ACOPROT that can conduct the authentication.
To get a .travel domain, a business owner goes to the Web site www.travel.travel and fills out an application, including the addresses the business would like to have (for example, www.costaricabikerentals.travel), plus a description of the business and contact information.
Once the business has been authenticated by a local travel organization (ACOPROT, in the case of Costa Rica), its site can go up on a .travel domain. A domain costs $100, plus $18 for the authentication conducted by ACOPROT. The annual renewal fee is $35.
Generally, the authentication process will involve checking to see if the applicant is a member of a Costa Rican tourism chamber or association, Duar explained, but in some cases it could include visiting the business for a visual assessment.
Travel and tourism companies from 73 different countries already have .travel Web sites, and there are 45 authenticating bodies in the world.
Cancun travel companies are now using .travel domain names exclusively, and China has announced that its official site for the 2008 Olympics will be a .travel domain.
Already 80 Costa Rican companies have .travelWeb sites, Duar said, noting that they got authenticated outside the country.
The Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) already has www.costarica.travel, and other major Costa Rican tourism companies such as airline Nature Air have also claimed their piece of .travel real estate.
Duar said she expects 3,000 Costa Rican companies to sign up for the domain in the next three years.
One advantage to owning a .travel domain is the ease with which potential customers can find it – Tralliance Corporation operates a search engine (www.search.travel) that returns results from only .travel sites.
Michael Stone, the chief destination marketer for the Tralliance Corporation, said the site conducts approximately 60,000 searches per day. Tralliance Corporation has also been in talks with Internet search companies Google and Yahoo, and Google has said that within the next few weeks it will begin ranking .travel domains higher on travel-related searches.
“Outside the United States, (the Internet) is very fragmented,” Stone said, with different domains for every country mixed in with all the .coms and .orgs. He added “.travel is viewed as a way to make it more cohesive.”