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Rice-Chertoff Tackle Travel and Tourism Issues

January 17, 2006 By: Susan Young Travel Agent

For the first time, two U.S. government cabinet-level departments—the State Department and Department of Homeland Security—have recognized the importance of the U.S. travel and tourism industry and the role tourism plays not just economically, but also in shaping the U.S. image abroad, according to officials from the Travel Industry Association of America, the Travel Business Roundtable and the World Travel and Tourism Council. That followed an announcement earlier in the day by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff in which they laid out their new joint vision for "Secure Borders, Open Doors." That's basically an integrated plan to improve border security but also to improve service for foreign visitors coming to the U.S. Initially, model ports of entry are being created at George H.W. Bush International Airport in Houston and Washington Dulles International, and ultimately that APPROACH could be expanded to other airports nationwide. The two departments also will improve processing of visas for business and temporary workers, and will utilize an advisory board to provide outreach with the travel, business and academic communities to take their views into account, to identify "best practices" when developing travel policies, and to enlist their support to encourage visits to the United States. The two departments are also increasing use of machine readable passports with digitized photographs, and will produce a new, inexpensive, secure, biometric passport card as an alternative to a traditional passport book for use by U.S. citizens in border communities who frequently cross North American land borders. The latter step is a cause championed by ASTA. In addition, DHS and State will also create a Global Enrollment Network so data need only be captured once from an applicant, whether the person is encountered first by DHS or State. Entry-exit systems are being improved, the departments plan to develop and better use travel intelligence before travelers arrive, and continually train staff to detect indicators of terrorist manipulation of travel documents. There are a host of other upgrades as well. Tourism officials called the joint cooperation of the two departments "groundbreaking."

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