As Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice concluded her remarks outlining Secure Borders and Open Doors
in the Information Age last Tuesday, she turned to Homeland
Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and said, When he and I took
office a year ago, we found a stereotype, a caricature, if you
Department was the welcoming department, but maybe a little soft,
and the Homeland Security department was the tough enforcer, and
maybe a little heartless. One of the our
earliest resolutions was to show people that this stereotype was
wrong on both sides.
Im not sure how
many people outside the Beltway actually subscribed to those
stereotypes, but its not insignificant that Rice brought up the
issue. It may well explain how macho posturing -- particularly at
Homeland Security -- delayed consideration of soft issues that
would have helped revive inbound travel and tourism at an earlier
point in this administration.
Soft meant, in the
large sense, concern about world opinion, diplomacy and
In the narrower
field of immigration and inbound tourism, softness was code for
foolish concern about making visitors feel welcome.
solutions described in the bulk of the Rice-Chertoff Joint Vision
are neutral in the context of soft vs. heartless. Biometric
identification has the double benefit of effectively preventing bad
people from entering the country and efficiently screening good
people to speed their ingress. A win-win.
increasing acceptance of softness by the administration was first
brought up by Rice. Speaking about President Bush, she said, He
reaffirmed that it is a vital national interest for America to
remain a welcoming nation.
Even our national security interests require us to continue to
promote a welcoming process.
Rice did not reveal
when the president first affirmed this concept, but there are two
pieces of the new initiative -- neither of them technology-related
-- that indicate a movement toward the principles of softness. One
of these pieces, designed to prevent visitors from feeling that the
U.S. is heartless, gets it exactly right. The other is an
inclusiveness initiative that ... well, we can hope.
The first is the
establishment of One-Stop Redress for Travelers, a process intended
to resolve errors that have led to travelers being incorrectly
selected for additional screening. It is simply an admission that
sometimes mistakes are made. Travelers need simpler ways to fix
them. Right on.
The second is An
Enhanced Partnership with the Private Sector, which, in full soft
mode, solicits outside opinion and works toward inclusiveness. It
will establish an advisory board to provide regular, institutional
outreach with the travel, business and academic communities to take
their views into account and identify best practices when
developing travel policies and enlist their support to encourage
visits to the U.S.
The irony of the
last clause is almost comical, given the frustration the travel
industry has endured in trying to enlist the support of the
government to encourage visits to the U.S.
The description of
the board continues: This advisory board will be asked to provide
feedback on specific initiatives and serve as a reliable sounding
While it is nice
that industry views will be taken into account and that feedback
will be solicited, an advisory board is rather limited in power if
there is no meaningful budget to promote travel and tourism
connected to its activities.
On the surface, the
soft, inclusive Rice-Chertoff Joint Vision hints that the welcome
mat is being prepared for both foreign visitors and the travel
It certainly seems
that inbound foreign travelers soon will gain entry in a smooth and
I worry, however, that
the industry will find itself lingering on a border, with one foot
in the door and the other permanently fixed to the welcome