Earlier this month, the U.S. Congress finally took the advice of
travel industry experts and extended the deadline for
implementation of new passport regulations, saving travelers and
suppliers from mass confusion & well, almost.
While suppliers and travel agents were relieved to find out there
will be an extension until June 2009 for U.S. citizens traveling by
land from Canada and Mexico, or by cruise ship in the Caribbean,
the government decided not to extend the deadline for travelers by
air to those places. What this means is that come Jan. 8, your
clients traveling to resorts throughout the Caribbean had better
have a passport.
This development has led to frustration on the part of Caribbean
travel industry representatives. One official has compared the
congressional action to a “category six hurricane.” The World
Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) released a statement claiming
that the move means “the United States Congress has effectively
laid off 188,300 Caribbean workers.” The release cited a study that
found that 80 percent of U.S. visitors to Jamaica do not use a
passport, while the numbers to other islands were not much better.
Only 27 percent of all Americans have a valid passport.
“These forecasts are extremely alarming, and it is discriminative
that airlines do not share a similar level of support to that given
to cruise and land-based tourism,” said WTTC president Jean-Claude
Ever since discussion of the passport regulations began, Caribbean
tourism officials have been worried about an even playing field,
and as it turns out, their concerns were not unfounded. Nobody
faults the cruise industry for getting its exemption, but even as
Congress reached out with one hand, they took away with the other.
It makes no sense to have different standards in play when simply
extending the deadline would give the entire industry as well as
the American public time to adjust to the new standards all at
One encouraging sign has emerged as we go to press. Reports from a
TravelAge West correspondent at the Caribbean Tourism Organization
conference on Grand Bahama indicate that the Caribbean Hotel
Association has now been joined by the airlines as well as the
cruise industry to lobby Congress and the Department of Homeland
Security with a unified front (page 6).
Maybe, with a little help from their friends, the Caribbean
resorts will get their even playing field after all. K.S.