The new domain could give consumers confidence that they are dealing with a legitimate travel business or group, but the mantra of "buyer beware" applies, as operators of the domain will not be performing any credit or criminal background checks or offering any guarantees.

 

New York-based Tralliance Corp, a unit of internet communications company Theglobe.com, won approval to run ".travel" earlier this year from the internet's key oversight agency, the internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN.

 

Since 1 July, industry groups such as the Adventure Travel Trade Association and the International Hotel and Restaurant Association have been verifying that companies and organisations belong to one of 18 eligible industry sectors.

 

New domains

 

Those approved were allowed to register ".travel" names starting on Monday.

 

Domains registered on the first day include Amtrak.travel, Bluebird-Inn.travel, Disneyland.travel and RoyalCaribbeanCruise.travel.

 

Disneyland has already adopted
the new domain name

Companies can use their names right away, although it may take time to update internet directories.

 

Although Tralliance billed the domain as an online space for the global travel and tourism community, travel journalist and author Edward Hasbrouck criticised the rules, saying they exclude travellers at the expense of promoting travel businesses.

 

"The domain appears to exclude the participation of the largest class of people who use the internet to travel - people who use the internet to post their travel stories and photos and all sorts of things," Hasbrouck said.

 

Travel media

 

Cherian Mathai, Tralliance's chief operating officer, said individuals might qualify as travel media if they offer a service, such as advice on how to get there.

 

Simply creating a site with family photos from Peru's Machu Picchu will not qualify, he said.

 

Approval is made on a case-by-case basis, he said.

 

Airlines are eligible for the
domain name 

So far, many of the eligible travel sectors are in transportation, including airlines, bus operators, cruise lines and passenger rail lines, a group that covers suburban commuter lines but not city subway systems.

 

Also eligible are hotels, casinos, camp facilities, travel agents and providers of travel technologies.

 

To prevent overlap with ".aero", an existing domain for the aviation industry, airports and aerospace companies do not qualify - but airlines do.

 

Mathai said the list would be continually reviewed by a non-profit group of travel associations, the Travel Partnership Corp, and may grow to include, for example, retailers of luggage.

 

Dot-com

 

ICANN has been creating new internet suffixes partly because existing ones such as ".com" are crowded, making easy-to-remember addresses difficult to obtain.

 

Nonetheless, websites that already have a ".com" name are likely to keep it and automatically redirect visitors to the new ".travel" site instead.

 

"Nobody wants to give up a dot-com name at this stage," Mathai said.