SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The controversial lodging reservations system that California offers on its toll-free lines and Web site is here to stay, according to Caroline Beteta, the new executive director of the California Travel and Tourism Commission and director of the state's Division of Tourism.

Beteta said the res system serves consumers who are attracted to the site, which she said receives 1.7 million visits per month.

Beteta, in her prior role as deputy secretary of commerce for the tourism division, was instrumental in striking the compromise between the division, which had plans for a lodging service contract with BASS and WorldRes, and the California Coalition of Travel Organizations, representing ASTA chapters and other agent groups that opposed the contract.

After hearings before the Assembly, the state dropped its endorsement. A revised plan was put back in service, privately operated by the California Hotel and Motel Association and the California Travel Industry Association.

Among the revisions, firms that meet the state's criteria can offer booking services through the Web site, and travel agent groups have the opportunity to set up links to the call center and site, which they haven't done.

Beteta, who is overseeing the first self-assessment of the state tourism industry and a $12 million marketing budget, said she will meet each quarter of the year with a group of agents and others to discuss the program, adding that she believes the core issues have been resolved.

Meanwhile, Beteta has turned her attention to many other projects in the "dynamic" new public-private partnership created by the self-assessment program.

Among them is a 40-minute IMAX film and a traveling exhibit that will be shown in Europe and in California, produced by the creators of the IMAX movie "Everest."

The tourism department said it expects the film to be shown in 100 theaters and have an attendance of 13 million viewers within the first five years.

In conjunction with the release of the film, the promotion will include premiere nights for the industry, distribution of a travel planner, the creation of California Experience travel packages and more than $30 million in promotional support from corporate sponsors.

Beteta also said the state has allocated $50,000 to build a California Travel Agent Specialist program, providing Internet-based training for agents who want to become California specialists.

She said she welcomes input from agents and hopes to have the specialist program ready for next year.

Comments
JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI