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Caribbean Tourist Group Urges US To Delay Passport Initiative

by Leroy Baker,, New York

22 June 2006

Caribbean tourism officials are pushing for an additional extension to the implementation date of the United States' Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI).

The WHTI, which is due to take effect on January 1 next year, will make it mandatory for all Americans returning home from the Caribbean and other countries in the Western Hemisphere to have a passport to enter their country.

Regional tourism officials, working through the Caribbean Community Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) and Caribbean ambassadors in Washington, successfully argued against the original implementation date of January 1, 2006, saying it put the region at a disadvantage, since Americans returning from Mexico and Canada by air would not need a passport before January 1, 2007.

Those returning from the two US border states by land have been given an additional year, and will require a passport by January 1, 2008.

According to Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), the Caribbean region would still be at a disadvantage if the passport law were enforced next year.

“The reason for a further postponement must be that the pick up of new passports by US citizens has been nowhere near the numbers that we would like to see,” he told journalists at the closing of Caribbean Week 2006.

“We recognise that we have an added problem which is that so many people have been so accustomed for so long to waking in the morning and deciding to go to the Caribbean because they didn’t need a passport, that there has to be an extensive campaign to let a lot more people know about this new requirement,” he added.

The CTO secretary general said the October date by which the US government intended to begin its educational campaign was too late for the Caribbean.

Mr. Vanderpool-Wallace then revealed that the Caribbean is undertaking its own educational campaign, advising Americans of the importance of getting a passport and how to go about getting one.

As part of the educational campaign, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) was able to get the assistance of the New York Times, which is running a series of advertisements at its own expense.

The regional tourism organisation also secured the cooperation of the United States Postal Service (USPS), which set up a booth at CTO’s Caribbean Fair - which formed part of Caribbean Week activities - where it facilitated passport applications.

TAGS: Curaçao

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