Passport rule impact expected

Although the deadline requiring US citizens travelling to the Caribbean to have passports to re-enter their country has been put back a year to January 2008, some impact on tourism in the Caribbean can still be expected.

That is the sentiment from President Elect of the Caribbean Hotel Association Peter Odle, who spoke at a Caribbean Hotel Association press briefing at Caribbean Marketplace in the Puerto Rico Convention Centre on Tuesday.

As of 1 January 2008 Americans travelling to the Caribbean by air or sea will require passports to re-enter the United States in accordance with the US Government’s Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. Currently, US citizens are not required to present a passport to enter or re-enter the US when travelling within the Western Hemisphere.

Originally the rule was to be imposed in time for January 2006, but the Caribbean Hotel Association submitted an objection to this date to the Department of Homeland Security in the United States, seeking the same implementation date as for Canada and Mexico – January 2008.

However, Mr. Odle pointed out that the hope is that the impact will not be as great as what was predicted if the regulation was imposed for January 2006.

Director General and CEO of CHA, Alec Sanguinetti said that if the regulation had been imposed for visitors to the Caribbean this year then the region would be at a disadvantage in relation to Canada and Mexico, with an estimated $1.8 billion in tourism revenue lost.

However, he cautioned that the cost of passports for a family of four is a little shy of $400. ‘That is where we could be faced with a challenge,’ he said.

He asserted that a unified campaign is being launched to educate the travelling American public that they will need passports to re-enter their country after vacationing in the Caribbean. The CHA will embark on this in conjunction with the Caribbean Tourism Organisation.

President of the CHA Berthia Parle said this process has already begun in the Bahamas, where flyers are being placed in hotels to forewarn visitors of the need to acquire a passport before 2008.

‘We want to use the Bahamas as a template to look at developments along the same lines,’ she said.

Ms Parle pointed that a large proportion of Americans do not possess passports, with less than 25 per cent of Congress members having such a document.