CTO Touts Technology But Online Booking Engine Down

Hardbeatnews, BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Fri. Aug. 26, 2005: Trying to book an online vacation via the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s, doitcaribbean website? Well good luck trying. The highly touted booking engine, which debuted last February, left HBN writers trying to book a hotel out in the cold this week.

The discovery comes as officials, in preparation mode for their annual Caribbean tourism conference in the United States Virgin Islands in October, tout branding and using technology to drive business, as among the focus of this year’s event.

“There is no doubt that technology is changing the travel and tourism industry at lightening speed and impacting on where consumers are traveling, how they’re booking and what they’re spending, and the companies and destinations that maximize their Internet presence to seize the new business opportunities that technology present will thrive,” Hugh Riley, CTO’s director of marketing for the Americas, said in a recent statement.

Ironically, the CTO’s interactive travel planner worked well to provide extensive destination information. But attempts this week to book seven-night stays at any of the 23 destinations listed, resulted in the recurring message: “Sorry no suitable properties were found that matched your criteria!”

This continued even after several changes to the original booking, including numerous date changes and adjustments to the fields, ‘star rating,’ ‘board basis’ and ‘order by.’

Last year, top officials from the CTO unveiled the on-line functionality and tools of the Doitcaribbean.com booking engine, at a press conference at the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan. Among those present then were former CTO secretary general Jean Holder, Arley Sobers, director of research & information management and Riley as well as members of the international press, tourist office officials from CTO member countries, CTO Chapter Presidents and members of the Board of Directors.

The live launch of the booking engine and Interactive Trip Planner were showcase to all present. At the time, it was revealed that the booking engine was powered by UK-based Escape2Travel Ltd., a hotel and apartment accommodation booking system for travel agents, and was developed in partnership with DOT Media, the UK web designers, programmers and copywriters.

Peter Warren, president of DOT Media, and Ludo Marcelo, CEO of Morris Kevan International, the parent company of Escape2Travel, Ltd, assisted with the live demonstration and launch last year.

Travel agents and small-size hotels in the Caribbean were touted as the ones set to most benefit from the on-line booking engine, which claimed that 400 hotels had signed up for the service as of last February.

“We are placing particular emphasis on small hotels in order to help bring them into the new technological environment that has pervaded the tourism marketplace,” Sobers had said last year.

CTO spokespersons, contacted for comment did not respond to three queries up to press time yesterday, despite promising an official reaction from Sobers.

Caribbean Hotel Association President, Berthia Parle, through a spokesperson, said she was completely unaware that the CTO booking engine was not operational.

“Because this is completely new to her, she is not in a position to react without having the facts,” the statement added. But it quoted Parle as saying that she is encouraged that, on a positive note, the Caribbean Hotel Association and Caribbean Tourism Organization can join efforts to bring to the industry an online booking mechanism that meets the needs of the various sectors.

The CHA represents many of the properties that signed up for the service. – Hardbeatnews.com