New US passport regulations kick in
New US regulations requiring Americans travelling by air to show a passport to re-enter the country after visiting countries in the Western Hemisphere take effect today.
There continues to be much anxiety among some Caribbean governments and tourism officials about the likely impact of the new US travel rules.
Some fear it will result in fewer American tourists coming to the region.
Countries like Jamaica and the Bahamas, where the majority of tourists came from North America, have expressed the most apprehension about the passport rules.
For others like Antigua and Barbuda, where Europe is the most important supply market, the impact is less certain.
Antigua/Barbuda says it doesn't expect to be badly hurt by the new requirements which come into force today.
"To the extent that the islands have sought to make it as easy as possible for people coming from the United States to visit the Caribbean Ö then this places an obstacle in the way of travel."
However the Antiguan Tourism Minister was quick to point out to BBC Caribbean that: "We (Antigua & Barbuda) don't expect that it will have any serious impact on our arrivals, as people who come to our country are normally seasoned travellers who already have passports.
Mr Lovell said though, that as the issue is of concern to the Caribbean, the rest of the region can count on the backing of Antigua & Barbuda "because of the overall impact that it may have."
Meanwhile the president of the Caribbean Hotel Association Peter Odle said itís too early to make an assessment of the likely impact either way.
"Probably at the end of the day there are a number of countries that are going to be affected - some 17 countries," he told BBC Caribbean.
US officials implementing the changes say most travellers who need passports to comply with the new rules already have them.
The US says the reason for the change in passport regulations is to over concerns that new passports with their hi-tech features are much more difficult to forge than other ID documents, such as birth certificates, social security cards and driver's licenses.
The next step in increasing US border safety - expected as early as January 2008 - will require all travellers entering by land or sea to hold valid passports.
Nearly three times as many travellers enter the United States by land or sea as do by air.