June 4 Port of Spain Trinidad: The Caribbean region could lose
up to $2.6 billion a year in travel trade revenue after new U.S. passport rules go into effect at the end of this year, a
tourism group said.
The Caribbean Hotel Association said a study conducted on its behalf
by the World Travel and Tourism Council also found that nearly 200,000 tourism-related jobs in the area could be at risk.
Americans visiting the Caribbean will be required to have a valid
U.S. passport to re-enter the United States from Dec. 31. Right now, they can travel to most places in the Caribbean using
other forms of identification such as drivers' licenses.
The study looked at what percentage of U.S. visitors to the Caribbean
do not use a valid U.S. passport and how the new requirement might affect the region's $20.7 billion annual tourism earnings
-- a lifeblood for island nations.
"The study concluded that in the Caribbean, as much as $2.6 billion
of visitor export earnings and more than 188,000 travel and tourism jobs could be at risk," the hotel association said.
The effect of the new regulation "will be a permanent realignment
of traffic, with spontaneous, last-minute travel significantly reduced," said hotel association chief Berthia Parle.
The Caribbean hoteliers urged Washington to delay the terrorism
prevention measure until 2008, when the passport requirement is also set to apply to U.S. travelers to Mexico and Canada.
U.S. President George W. Bush has said he hoped for flexibility in how the policy is applied with regard to Canada and Mexico.