If Aruba did not have enough to worry about with their declining tourism due to the disappearance of Natalee Holloway and the subsequent handling of the investigation; according to some experts it may get even worse. It is not just Aruba that will be affected but all Caribbean islands. The US Passport rules changes are slated to take effect in December 31, 2006 .
The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 mandated that the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, develop and implement a plan to require U.S. citizens and foreign nationals to present a passport, or other secure document when entering the United States.
In the proposed implementation plan, the Initiative will be rolled out in phases, providing as much advance notice as possible to the affected public to enable them to meet the terms of the new guidelines. The proposed time-line will be as follows:
• December 31, 2006 – Requirement applied to all air and sea travel to or from Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.
• December 31, 2007 – Requirement extended to all land border crossings as well as air and sea travel.
Tourism board throughout the Caribbean including the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Aruba, British Virgin Islands and St. Kitts as countries which may be hit.
A tourism conference in Bermuda has heard dire predictions about the impact on Caribbean tourism of new passport rules for Americans.
One official of the World Travel and Tourism Organization said countries which rely heavily on the US market may experience a reduction in American visitors.
The new changes will mean that US citizens will have to show a passport or like secure identification in order to return o the US from the Caribbean, Canada, Mexico, Panama and Bermuda.
Currently, Americans need show only their drivers licenses or a birth certificate when they re- enter from those countries.
The new requirement by the Department of Homeland Security is supposed to make it harder for “terrorists” to enter the U.S.
Mr Miller said he expected Americans, only 20% of whom have passports, will find the new rules a handicap.
The fear in Aruba as well as other affected areas is that American tourist will either travel more domestically or go to Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands, American territories. The tourism councils are using the thought that it will be a disincentive for American tourist to go through the hassle and the process to get passport that cost about $125.00 and the time it takes to receive. That being said it is hardly likely that this new law will not go in to effect. It deals with homeland security and the proper identification of citizens who are re-entering the United States. In a post 9-11 world, US security trumps another countries tourism every time.
One can never control what another country does to provide security or any program that may affect another. All the locations in question can do is provide a reason why people should and would want to come to your vacation spot. Market the fact in advance that there will be changes in the future. Provide any type of incentive to get beyond the passport requirement as that is carved in stone.
It is much like the situation that Aruba finds itself presently in. There is a declining tourism in Aruba not because of any boycott called for by three US governors. There is a decline do to people’s personal choices by what they see and the reaction to how Aruba has handled an investigation and treated a family of a missing teenage girl.
The age old motto still exists: If you build it properly and give people a reason; they will come.