November 23, 2005

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, a law requiring the Department of Homeland Security to verify the identity of all travelers entering the United States from Canada and Mexico using passports and biometric identifiers, worries several meetings industry groups. In a Nov. 16 joint statement, the leaders of ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership, Meeting Professionals International and the Professional Convention Management Association said stricter identification requirements, set to take effect in late 2006 for air/sea travel and a year later for land crossings, could hurt overall business travel and tourism in the States. "While we certainly acknowledge the national security concerns at play in the development of WHTI, travel and tourism is a multibillion dollar industry placed at some risk if entry procedures at the U.S. borders are stiffened to the point where they deter visitors from Canada and Mexico," said John H. Graham IV, CAE, president and CEO of ASAE. "A driver's license with upgraded security features, in combination with a birth certificate, might be an acceptable passport substitute."