Further to concerns expressed by the Travel Business Roundtable (TBR) - a strategic partner to the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) - and other industry organizations, TBR is pleased that the Department of State and Department of Homeland Security have delayed a December 31, 2005 deadline for the first proposed phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), which would have required travelers to and from the Caribbean, Bermuda, Central and South America to present passports or other accepted secure documents at U.S. ports of entry. WHTI will require passports or other accepted documents for all air, sea and land travel to and from the Caribbean, Bermuda, Central and South America, Canada and Mexico by January 1, 2008. Currently, travelers need only a birth certificate and/or valid driver's license to travel between the U.S. and these locations.
Earlier this summer, several TBR members met with senior-level Congressional and Bush Administration officials to express their concerns that the deadline would have adverse effects on travel to and from these popular destinations for Americans, who made up 53 percent of the region's 22 million visitors last year, excluding cruise ship passengers, as well as for international travelers. According to a recent survey conducted by the World Travel and Tourism Council, approximately $2.5 billion in revenue from Americans who travel to the Caribbean without passports was at stake. Fewer than 23 percent of Americans currently hold valid U.S. passports.
The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 mandated that the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, develop and implement a plan to require U.S. Citizens and foreign nationals to present a passport or other secure document when entering the U.S.
The proposed plan was publicly unveiled in April by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State. It would require travelers by air and sea to have passports for travel to and from the Caribbean, Bermuda, Central and South America by December 31, 2005 and by December 31, 2006 to Mexico and Canada. Passports to and from all air, sea and land borders would be required by December 31, 2007.
"While TBR and other travel industry organizations support the Administration's ongoing efforts to protect our borders from those who wish to do us harm, we also believe that along with these new security measures, we must also provide these countries and their citizens with enough time and information to prepare for the changes," notes Jonathan Tisch, Chairman of TBR and Chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels. "To that end, we are pleased that our concerns about the proposed deadlines were taken into consideration after we met with various officials in Washington earlier this summer."
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