The travel industry got its own top-level Internet domain in 2005. The big unanswered question then was "Why do we need this?" Inquiring minds are still asking.

Suppose an intrepid traveler wants to do some research on the Internet about visiting Brunei. Suppose she types in www.bruneitourism.com. What happens?

A fair amount of information about Brunei comes up, but it's from Anthony Tours and Travel Agency, a private company that happens to use that URL.

To get to the site operated by the Brunei Tourism Board, you'd have to type in www.bruneitourism.travel.

For entities like the Brunei Tourism Board, this situation illustrates one of the advantages of an authenticated dot-travel domain. And that is why many travel organizations registered dot-travel Internet addresses.

But many did not. Mississippi's Division of Tourism Development, for example, is still at www.visitmississippi.org (and .net). And if you happen to stumble onto www.mississippi.travel, you'll see something the creators of the domain never envisioned.

One of the principal justifications for the creation of the dot-travel domain was to provide some certainty to consumers that an entity with a dot-travel address really is what it says it is.

The key was authentication. In fact, the only value the domain ever offered to consumers was the promise of authenticity: "VisitFlorida.travel" really would take you to the site of Visit Florida, not to a fly-by-night real estate firm selling swampland to retirees.

Without a rigorous and ongoing verification program, the "travel" suffix at the end of an Internet address becomes just a word, with no particular value to consumers and no function other than to enlarge the universe of possible addresses available for sale.

At that point, there's little reason for many industry firms to care about dot-travel, except in the same way they care about dot-com and dot-net (i.e., to protect themselves from squatters, impersonators and shake-down artists).

Some commentators have already called the travel domain a failure, or worse. We don't believe this story is over, but from where we sit, it appears that the better part of a good idea has failed, leaving behind an enterprise whose value for the industry is not so readily apparent.   

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Flunking

When the Transportation Department in the previous century began publishing monthly reports about airline on-time performance and other metrics, some folks took to calling the document the airline "report card."

In that spirit we hereby declare that the U.S. airline industry flunked December.

Only 64.3% of domestic flights made it to their destinations within 15 minutes of schedule in December, and that's about as bad as it has ever been.

Yes, there were winter storms, but they don't tell the whole story. In fact, only 1.4% of the delayed flights were attributed to "extreme weather." Nearly a third were deemed to be within the air carriers' control, and about an equal number were blamed on air traffic control.

Whatever the cause, the airlines clearly flunked, but so did the entire airline/airport/air traffic control system.

We appreciate the complexity of that system; it has to move a million passengers a day, safely. But it can't inconvenience a third of them in the process, even in winter.  

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