SAN FRANCISCO -- The California Division of Tourism postponed for another 90 days its controversial hotel booking service for consumers who call the state's toll-free number or access its Web site.

The proposed service was to start in late 1997 but was put on hold in early January for 90 days, pending public hearings. Lee Grissom, secretary of the Trade and Commerce Agency, which oversees the tourism division, made the decision to delay the service again following the hearings, in which agents expressed their strong opposition to the state's contracts with BASS ticketing agency and the WorldRes on-line reservations service.

Grissom put the contracts on hold, this time pending meetings of a committee of travel industry leaders and representatives from BASS, WorldRes and the California Hotel and Motel Association, a tourism division spokesman said. Grissom is expected to appoint the committee members by mid-April.

Meanwhile, ARTA president John Hawks said the association, which had joined the California Coalition of Travel Organizations (CCTO) in opposing the service, might have reached a compromise. Hawks said that in meetings with BASS, WorldRes and the hotel association, the groups have worked out a plan whereby callers and Web surfers seeking California hotel bookings would be offered a referral to an agent before they are linked to BASS or WorldRes.

"We hope to turn this solution into a model that can be used nationwide," Hawks said.

But Coranne Gibson of Brickroad Travel in Orange, Calif., and president of the CCTO, said the organization remains opposed to the lodging service.

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