NEW YORK -- The Caribbean Tourism Organization's booking engine for hotel accommodations launches March 1 with a special travel agent module and Interactive Trip Planner.

Later this year, the booking module will expand to include villas, car rentals, transfers, attractions and restaurant reservations, according to CTO officials.

"Cruises and online links with both scheduled and charter airlines are under consideration as well," said Jean Holder, CTO secretary general.

The Web site has served as an informational tool for Caribbean destinations since its launch in March 2000. The addition of the online booking for accommodations "will benefit small hotels by bringing them into the new technological environment that has pervaded the tourism marketplace," according to Holder.

UK-based Escape2Travel, a company specializing in hotel booking, powers the booking functionality, which is available to consumers as well.

More than 400 hotels signed up for the booking engine, which is available to hotels in CTO member countries, provided they are approved by the local tourist board or hotel association.

Hotel rates are commissionable at 14% for CTO chapter agents and 10% for others.

The Interactive Trip Planner includes destination information and listings for Caribbean specialist travel agents.

The CTO will offer workshops, online training and a toll-free Help Line to assist agents with the booking function.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

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