Don’t be too sure your attendees have a clue when it comes to the new passport requirements under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. The Travel Industry Association of America just released the results of a survey of 1,980 American adults, and more than half were confused.
TIA is calling for more outreach from the government to inform the public about the new passport rules, pointing to the 56 percent of its survey respondents who did not know that all U.S travelers returning to the U.S. by air must now have a passport, regardless of what country they are coming from. Seven percent of the respondents believed that U.S. residents do not need a passport to enter the U.S. regardless of the country visited.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, passed by Congress two years ago, calls for all U.S. citizens leaving the country to possess a passport when re-entering the U.S. from places such as Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. On January 8, 2007, the first stage of the new rules went into effect: U.S. citizens traveling by air must now have a passport. However, the requirement for travelers entering the U.S. by land or sea does not go into effect until June 2009.
“While the U.S. travel industry supports the changes under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, this research only reconfirms our fear that travelers are not very well informed about the WHTI requirement overall,” said Roger Dow, president and chief executive officer of TIA in a statement. Dow called on the government not to begin “land and cruise enforcement until U.S. and international travelers better understand these new requirements.”