Advocacy in North America
United States International Trade Commission
Following a meeting of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) Board of Directors, CHTA has taken steps to increase its advocacy efforts in the United States. The most noteworthy of these recent efforts is CHTA’s participation in a United States International Trade Commission (USITC) hearing on the Caribbean Region: Review of Economic Growth and Development,
which was commissioned by U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel and sanctioned by the House Committee on Ways and Means. CHTA President Peter Odle and Director General and CEO Alec Sanguinetti presented pertinent information crucial to the enhancement of U.S. policies regarding economic growth, trade and tourism in the Caribbean.
CHTA's presence was requested in a letter sent to Sanguinetti by the USITC Director of Operators, requiring the hospitality organization’s expertise to enhance the investigative process so that the hearing could delve more deeply into trends and issues facing the Caribbean region's economic growth and stability.
"Our report to the USITC has laid the foundation for the creation of new economic policies that take into account the current status of Caribbean tourism and its contribution to our local economies, as well as the significance of the U.S. market in each country," said CHTA President Peter Odle.
The comprehensive report features information on all factors pertaining to Caribbean tourism and economic development including passport regulation, employment in the region and global climate change, as well as suggestions for potential targets for U.S. aid, such as human resource development programs and hospitality service training initiatives.
Click here to read the full report.
Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) - US Passport Requirements
In 2005 the CHTA commissioned and released the findings of an economic impact study of the United States passport regulation that would require US citizens visiting the Caribbean to be in possession of a valid US passport to re-enter the US, effective January 1, 2006.
The study, conducted by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) on behalf of CHTA, considered the market share of visitors from the United States to the Caribbean and the percentage of those visitors that do not use a valid US passport - and examined these figures against total visitor exports earnings in the region, which total US$20.7 billion.
The study concluded that in the Caribbean, as much as US$2.6 billion of visitor export earnings and more than 188,000 Travel & Tourism jobs could be at risk. These findings, as well as the CHTA Official Position Statement, were submitted to the US Department of Homeland Security.
In September 2005, the US Department of Homeland Security announced a delay of one year in the implementation of passport requirements for US citizens returning from the Caribbean. The CHTA used this opportunity to collaborate with all public and private sector partners of the Caribbean hotel and tourism industry to educate prospective US visitors of the impending requirements.
The US requirements for returning passengers by air eventually came into effect on January 23rd, 2007, while the rule for cruise passengers was delayed until June 2009 and the date for land travelers to Canada and Mexico was fixed for January 2008.
For the first four months of this year, it is reported that the Caribbean lost over US$400 million in tourism revenue directly because of the early implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) and most of this loss of revenue was felt in CARICOM countries.
As predicted by the US Customs study of August 2006 and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) study of June 2005, the demand for Passports by US citizens so overwhelmed the processing capacity of passport offices that the Department of Homeland security relaxed temporarily the full requirements of the WHTI for air travellers with the intention to reinstate the full requirements after September 30th 2007.
Meanwhile expressions of financial harm to travel industry interests in the United States have been heard in addition to complaints regarding the restricted ability of US citizens to travel overseas to their destinations of choice. Further, it has now been confirmed that those CARICOM countries that rely heavily on impulse travel have been the hardest hit by these processing problems.
It has now been shown that all countries in the Caribbean have been affected by WHTI including US territories and even those that already required US Passports for entry. It is believed that the publicity surrounding the new passport requirements caused confusion among the US travelling public and to some extent tainted the image of the Caribbean as an easy-to-access destination.
As a further detriment to the region, it has been found that after the acquisition of a passport, those persons that were previously confined to Caribbean choices for vacations are now looking much farther afield. This induced competition will undoubtedly have the largest long term effect.
Advocacy in action: In June 2007 the CHTA joined the CTO in calling for a postponement of the full reintroduction of WHTI to June 2009 for ALL travellers. It is anticipated that this will allow, at least, some additional time for our destinations to recognize that we need to become much more competitive in our offers and in our services.
Click here to download the World Travel & Tourism Council's Commentary on the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative
Click here to download the World Travel & Tourism Council's Passport Study.