Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: Oct. 10, 2006

THE CARIBBEAN IS REELING from the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, passed by Congress on Sept. 29, which granted a reprieve to cruise passengers but not to air travelers. The amendment delays the implementation of the new passport requirements until June 1, 2009 for land crossings at the Mexico and Canada borders and for cruise passengers coming to the U.S. from the Caribbean, Mexico, Canada or Bermuda. Congress remained silent on the air portion of the WHTI, so the implementation date of Jan. 8, 2007 remains in place meaning any U.S. citizen entering or returning by air to the U.S. on or after that date needs a valid passport. In simplest terms, travelers to the U.S. by land and sea will need a valid passport by June 2009, 20 months away. Those traveling by air will need a passport by Jan. 8, 2007, two months from now.

VINCENT VANDERPOOL-WALLACE, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, compared the impact of the passport requirement on air travelers to a Category 6 hurricane. "It is incomprehensible that the U.S. government would approve an amendment that excludes air arrivals from the Caribbean and therefore grant an additional advantage to cruise lines in the Caribbean, which already enjoy a significant competitive advantage especially since they also supported the inclusion of air arrivals," Vanderpool-Wallace said. Peter Odle, president of the Caribbean Hotel Association, concurred with the CTO's comments and predicted economic and social upheaval in the region, due to the "inevitable" shift in travel by U.S. citizens. "Tourism is the lifeline of the Caribbean, and represents 97% of all direct and indirect jobs in the region. For the Caribbean, the economic impact has the potential to be disastrous," Odle said. The CHA maintained that any postponement of the WHTI implementation should apply equally to all countries involved as well as to travel by land, air and sea. "No country or industry should be arbitrarily disadvantaged to the economic advantage of any other sector," Odle said.

 

WITH PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS ABOUT TO BECOME LAW, several resorts in the Caribbean are offering packages in which they'll refund guests for the costs of passport fees (details vary). A sampling is below. Passport costs are $97 for adults and $82 for children under 16 years of age for new applications and $67 for renewals. For passport details, visitwww.travel.state.gov/passport/get/get_840.html .

" All first-time passport holders who check in at Ladera Resort in St. Lucia anytime in 2007 will be reimbursed the $97 passport processing fee. As an added incentive, first-time passport holders will receive Ladera's leather passport wallet, a 30-minute jet lag massage at the Ti Kaye Pose Spa, and a Juanderlust cocktail, so-named for the Spanish explorer Juan de la Cosa who is credited with discovering St. Lucia in the early 1500s. The drink, concocted by Ladera's bartender Peter Joseph, is a mix of gin and Spanish vanilla liquor shaken and served on the rocks with a splash of Caribbean limes. For details, visit www.ladera.com.

" Guests traveling to a SuperClubs resort next year will have the passport renewal or application costs (up to $97 per person) credited to the price of a four-night or longer all-inclusive resort stay. The promotion includes cruise passengers who book pre- and post-trips at a SuperClubs resort. "Our message to our guests is clear: go out and get your passports and SuperClubs will pay for it," said John Issa, executive chairman. "This promotion is designed to ease any sticker shock that applicants might face, and make this new initiative an easy transition for new passport holders." For SuperClubs' information, log on to www.superclubs.com.

" With new passport rules included in the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative about to start Jan. 8, Club Peace & Plenty on Exuma in the Bahamas will cover the cost of up to four new passports (two adults and two children) for guests booking four or more nights by Dec. 31 for travel through Jan. 2, 2008. Guests must show a receipt for the new passports in order to receive reimbursement from Peace & Plenty. Refunds apply only to the cost of the document; shipping and handling charges will not be covered. Barry Benjamin, vice president of sales and marketing for the family-owned resort, estimated that more than 85% of Peace & Plenty's business is from the U.S. "Many of our repeat guests do not have U.S. passports. We're doing this reimbursement program for them so they are not caught unawares," he said. For details, call (800) 525-2210.

PALM ISLAND in the Grenadines will reopen Nov. 1 after renovating the public areas, adding two wedding gazebos and expanding Southern Cross, a guest room formerly known as the Cave House. A five-night agent fam trip is priced at $149 per night, including accommodations, air and taxes. Booking deadline is Oct. 24; travel must be completed by Nov. 15. For information, call (800) 345-0356 or visit www.eliteislandresorts.com.

Caribbean Editor:

Gay Nagle Myers

Phone: (201) 902-1591

[email protected]

For promotional opportunities in the E-letters, contact [email protected].

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