WestJet Visit Canada

Published on Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Americans unaware of passport need

US travel industry leaders are calling for better communications after a new survey of nearly 2,000 travelers revealed that the majority of Americans do not know a passport is now required when returning to this country via air from other Western Hemisphere countries.

“While the US travel industry supports the changes under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), 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 the (TIA). He added:

“The results of this survey underscore the need for substantially more outreach to the traveling public on WHTI and the necessity of not beginning land and cruise enforcement until US and international travelers better understand these new requirements.”

Mr Dow also said this apparent lack of understanding about the new passport requirement “is likely to complicate travel plans for many of the estimated 10 million US citizens who are expected to take a foreign vacation this summer.”

According to the new travelhorizons survey of 1,980 American adults just released by the Travel Industry Association and Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell, over half of US travelers (56%) could not correctly answer a question about the countries from which a passport is now required for all US citizens returning by air. Others were not sure about the requirements or were unaware a passport was needed.

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative passed by the US Congress two years ago calls for all American citizens leaving the country to possess a passport when re-entering the US from places such as Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The original deadline for implementation of this requirement among travelers entering the US by land or sea was extended from January 2008 until June 2009 as a result of a major campaign by the travel industry.

The new requirements have led to a surge in passport applications. The average time required to process and fulfill a passport application has risen from an estimated 4-to-6 weeks last year to 10 weeks.

Report by David Wilkening

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