The vexation caused by the Western
Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which starting Jan. 23 will require
U.S. air travelers to have a passport when entering or re-entering
the U.S., is far from over.
Doumeng, managing director of the 65-room, family-owned Bolongo Bay
Beach Resort on St. Thomas, the latest vexation concerns an
asterisk, or rather, the lack of one.
Doumeng is a past
president of the U.S. Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism
Association and a member of the Caribbean Hotel Association. He
wants the CHA and other organizations to continue to remind U.S.
travelers that the passport requirement doesn't apply to Puerto
Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
view, an asterisk on CHA press releases would be a good
"There is a fact
buried in the WHTI that has been almost completely ignored in the
reportage throughout the world. Because of our political status,
the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are exempt from this new
law," he said.
the WHTI as a "callous, coldhearted and destructive piece of
legislation that already has negatively impacted the entire region,
including the U.S.V.I."
The fact that
U.S. citizens without passports will be permitted to come to the
U.S.V.I. and return home after Jan. 8, appears nowhere on the
U.S.V.I. Department of Tourism's Web site. "We have missed a great
opportunity there," Doumeng said.
It does, however,
appear on releases distributed by the U.S.V.I. Hotel & Tourism
The home page of
the Puerto Rico Tourism Co.'s Web site carries an image of a
passport stamp with the message "No Passport Required."
Cruise and land
travelers entering or re-entering the U.S. were granted a reprieve
until June 2009 until the passport requirement is
"We did not
create this law. We did not endorse this initiative. We don't
believe the cruise industry needed any more unfair advantages,"
In a letter to
the CHA requesting the asterisk, Doumeng said, "We understand the
sensitivity on this issue and want to quell any potential
bitterness and resentment. We ask for your understanding of our
Doumeng said he
had lost some FIT business as a result of "the absolute confusion
surrounding the passport regulation."
bookings are behind what they usually are at this time of year,
although we've gained a bit in group business, especially
weddings," Doumeng said. "A bride wants to make it as easy as
possible for her sorority sisters to attend her
Frenchman's Reef has picked up some incentive groups as well, said
In Puerto Rico,
tourism officials project that the hotel occupancy rate for the
high season will be 81%, as it was a year ago.
Peter Odle earlier this fall said the economic impact of the
passport law had the potential to be "disastrous" for affected
In an address at
last month's annual conference of the Caribbean Tourism
Organization, Pamela Richards, former chairman, cited a study done
by the World Travel and Tourism Council that projected a loss of
close to 188,000 tourism-related jobs throughout the region as a
result of the measure's impact on visitor spending.
To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].