SAN JUAN -- The
Caribbean Hotel Association is mounting a unified campaign to
educate U.S. travelers about the requirement for a valid passport
to re-enter the U.S. from the Caribbean, effective Jan. 1, 2007,
the same date that the requirement takes effect for travelers
returning from Canada and Mexico.
part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative unveiled last year
by the Dept. of Homeland Security, initially called for the measure
to take effect this month for travelers returning from the
Caribbean, a full year ahead of Canada and Mexico.
CHA was the only
Caribbean organization to submit documents to the Department of
Homeland Security that quantified the disastrous effect that the
earlier date would have had on the Caribbean in terms of loss of
jobs and loss of business, said Berthia Parle, CHA president,
during a session at the 26th annual Caribbean Marketplace (formerly
called CHA Marketplace).
We agreed in
principle with the initiative, she added. We asked only that the
playing field be leveled and that the measure go into effect on the
same date for travelers returning from the Caribbean, Canada and
Parle said the
CHA received acknowledgements from six members of Congress
sympathetic to our cause, and we did learn that only 25% of the
Congressional members themselves have passports.
The CHA will work
with the Caribbean Tourism Organization in a campaign to publicize
the passport requirement through the distribution of flyers,
advertising and the help of its public- and private-sector travel
requirement had taken effect in the Caribbean this month, as
initially announced, the Caribbean would have been at a great
disadvantage. Our research showed that more than $1.8 billion would
have been lost in revenue and more than 118,000 jobs lost in the
tourism sector, Parle said.
With the cost of
passports for a family of four totalling close to $400, Parle said
it is critical that the public be informed well in advance so that
travelers can factor this cost into a vacation budget.
We know that some
hotels have indicated that they will offer incentives to build part
of this cost into the vacation booking, she said.
instance, introduced a program for a brief time last year that
refunded passport application fees. John Issa, SuperClubs chairman, said his firm would
re-introduce the same program later this year.
suppliers at the Caribbean Marketplace appeared buoyed by strong
bookings for the current season, increased airlift into the region,
numerous hotel projects in the works and a new spirit of
cooperation between the CHA and the CTO.
2005 as a year of challenges. Hurricane Wilmas destruction in the
Mexican Caribbean and close calls for other Caribbean destinations,
coupled with high fuel prices slowed growth considerably, she
figures are not yet out, the CHAs 2005 visitor figures to the
region will reflect a 5% growth rate over 2004, and a similar
increase is forecast for 2006.
reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].