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October 24, 2006
  • Reverse rule sought for passport issue
  • DR in Conde Nast Traveler contest
  • Paradisus is paradise for kids
Reverse rule sought for passport issue
Tourism leaders of the Caribbean are proactively working to administratively reverse the 29 September decision of the US government that would require passports of air arrivals from the Caribbean starting 8 January 2007. 75% of US citizens traveling abroad in 2005 did so without passports. Tourism is the main industry of the Caribbean.
The ministers and directors of tourism met at the Caribbean Tourism Organization conference held 20-25 October in the Bahamas to develop the strategy. The Dominican Republic, a member of the organization and one of the countries most affected by the decision, did not participate in the conference passport issue deliberations. US residents make for more than half of the Dominican traveler market.
In a press conference held on Tuesday, 24 October, Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace announced that American Airlines and Alaska Air had committed in writing to support the efforts. A successful lobby could achieve the desired "level-playing field" administratively because Congress will not convene again until 13 November. The original Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative had stipulated that passports would be required for visitors to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean as of 1 January 2008. But instead, with the 29 September decision, US Congressmen included a provision asking to accelerate the passport requirement for air travel to the Caribbean as of 8 January 2007, adhering the last minute decision to a Homeland Security appropriations bill. Because this did not modify the law itself, the provision can be changed administratively.
Vanderpool announced that in addition the Atlantis Corporation in Nassau and the Carnival cruise company were active in the lobby to reverse the decision. The lobbying is preparing for subsequent Caribbean government contacts with the highest levels in the US government.
Vanderpool argued that the US had committed to carry out a significant campaign to alert its citizens of the need to travel with a passport, and did not do so. He pointed that the possibility of substituting a cruise visit to the Caribbean for a land visit was an unfair trade for the economy of the region.
Furthermore, he raised the point that once more US citizens have passports, the travel options open to them, such as Europe, would be broadened, increasing the future competition for the US traveler the region will face. CTO wants the passport requirement to be extended to June 2009 to give the region time to prepare for "the onslaught of competition".
Vanderpool addressed security concerns, and said that it cannot be said that passengers traveling by air are at a higher risk than those traveling by cruise, and thus all passengers should receive equal treatment.
It takes approximately eight weeks to get a passport in the US. A family of four would have to pay around US$600 for the document. "That is a US$600 tax on someone coming to the Caribbean by air, as opposed to going to Florida or on a cruise," he stated, pointing out that the cruise ship industry already enjoys multiple competitive advantages.
President Leonel Fernandez will be meeting with President George Bush in Washington, but it is not known whether the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative is on his agenda as the Ministry of Tourism has not participated in the regional efforts to reverse the decision.
During CTC, several Caribbean governments announced their plans to deal with the provision, if it is maintained. These include reimbursements in the form of credits on services to tourists for partial cost of their passport if the island is chosen as first destination.
DR in Conde Nast Traveler contest
Dominican 10-year old Virginia Nunez Mir, a granddaughter of national poet Pedro Mir, participated in the Conde Nast Traveler annual Caribbean Tourism Organization's essay writing contest for children 8-12 years. The 10-year old Colegio Dominico-Americano student won an expenses-paid trip with her mother to Bahamas to share with 24 other children from the Caribbean. The contest is held to encourage children to seek a travel career. This year, 26 Caribbean countries participated, sending 25 representatives. Nunez received one of the warmest rounds of applause for her description of the country in fluent English and her poise throughout the formal events. As her fellow participants, she was asked to write the essay keeping in mind she was a travel journalist. In her essay, she highlighted "the great variety of birds singing that makes for perfect mornings", and how in the DR "we are all different so however you are we will accept you."
During the event, the editor in chief of Conde Nast Traveler, Klara Glowczewska, announced that the Dominican Republic would be featured in the December issue of the magazine.
See her complete essay at http://www.dr1.com/travelnews/archive/2006/condenast.shtml
Paradisus is paradise for kids
Sussanna Mander, director of brand management for Paradisus resorts of the Sol Group Corporation, speaking during a presentation on branding during the CTC-29 in Bahamas, announced that the company seeks to differentiate itself and has innovated adding unique attributes to its extensive amenities in order to cater to the luxury family market with its properties. Paradisus this year opened the Paradisus Palma Real in Punta Cana, its second hotel in the area. The company has created the family concierge, whereby parents get a beach bag with sun tan lotion and a walkie-talkie when checking in. A sort of wireless concierge, this butler service is available to them at all times. Guests arriving at the top brand of the hotel also benefit from private family checking lounge with mini furniture for the children. Family rooms come with mini bathrobes and mini-slippers and turndown service in the night includes milk and cookies for the children. The Punta Cana area is a major destination for family vacations. For more information on the Paradisus Palma Real see http://dr1.com/directories/hotels/paradisus_palma_real.shtml

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