A Passport Crisis is Coming: What Agents Need to Know

by Doug Gollan

The passport “crisis” of 2007 is about to return in 2016, according to a senior government official, speaking at the recent ASTA Global Convention in Washington D.C.

Nearly a decade ago, new requirements mandating Americans to have passports for travel to Mexico and Canada led to a surge in applications and a backlog in processing the documents.

With many of those documents set to expire over the next 24 months, coupled with an increase in Americans traveling abroad (today 125 million U.S. citizens have passports), Brenda Sprague, deputy assistant secretary of Passport Services at the U.S. State Department, said, “If I haven’t scared you to death, I haven’t accomplished my mission.”

Sprague spoke during the ASTA’s first Global Travel Exchange, an event aimed at connecting international ASTA members with U.S. members.

She warned travel advisors to make sure the first thing they ask clients about the status of their current passports.

Renew—or apply—ASAP
Agents should advise clients to take care of passport renewals as soon as possible or, for those seeking a passport for the first time, to apply for one right away, Sprague said.

In addition to saving expedited processing fees, getting clients ahead of the curve will ensure they are not disappointed by not receiving their passports in time for their trips, she added.

Sprague also noted that it’s not true that there’s a specific waiting period before a passport expires before people can seek a renewal.

Another issue is that next January citizens who run out of visa pages will have to obtain a new passport instead of having additional pages inserted. Two options will be available: either 28 or 52 pages with no difference in cost.

Sprague noted that more than 90% of passports that are returned have less than two pages used.

Many countries require passports be valid for six months on arrival, so agents should check on this. Agents should also be aware that passports for children under 16 are valid only for five years.

Passport season
In the past “passport [application and renewal] season” began in mid-January, peaked in March and then ran steadily through August before trailing off, said Sprague.

Since last year, the trend has been for it to continue rising throughout the year. “This summer, it never slowed down,” Sprague noted.

While passports aren’t required for cruises that begin and end in U.S. ports, Sprague said agents should encourage clients to obtain passports anyway, noting that people may get sick or injured when visiting ports and have to fly back.

And when clients lose their passports, agents should have them check thoroughly before reporting it because once the passport is reported missing, it can’t be reinstated even if it’s found, Sprague said.

  63
  11
Daily Top List

Top Things to Do in Minnesota

1. Brainerd’s Lakeland

2. North Shore State parks

3. Retro Chic at Detroit Lakes

4. Lanesboro’s Root River Charm

5. Grand Marais’ Art Scene

Source: Midwest Living

TMR THIS WEEK
http://services.travelsavers.com/AMGService.svc/REST/GetImage?ImageID=60d2035e-131d-e911-b4aa-782bcb66a2f2

Why the Caribbean Remains the Preferred Region for Cruise Travel

It’s family-friendly, convenient and like no place else in the world — no wonder the majority of travelers seek this region for their ocean-going getaways.

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
FIT/Packaged Vacations Report Card Reveals Travel Advisors Are a Supplier’s Best Friend
FIT/Packaged Vacations Report Card Reveals Travel Advisors Are a Supplier’s Best Friend

Research shows independent operators have made agent distribution channel their most valued source for business.

Despite Playa del Carmen Shooting, Industry Insiders Say Tourists Need Not Worry
Despite Playa del Carmen Shooting, Industry Insiders Say Tourists Need Not Worry

The question of Mexico’s safety resurfaced again yesterday after seven people were killed in a shooting in the resort city of Playa del Carmen this past weekend. 

Tsunami Death Toll Climbs to Nearly 400 in Indonesia
Tsunami Death Toll Climbs to Nearly 400 in Indonesia

The tsunami hit without warning around the Sunda Strait on Saturday night.

Tauck President Jennifer Tombaugh: Balancing Career and Family
Tauck President Jennifer Tombaugh: Balancing Career and Family

Here's one story about what can happen when a company recognizes the importance of family and puts policies in place that enable parents to thrive at work and at home.

Collette Restages Its First Tour from 1918
Collette Restages Its First Tour from 1918

America's oldest existing tour operator took some special guests on a tour that recreated the first tour in its 100-year history.

How to Make Big Money Using Social Media
How to Make Big Money Using Social Media

Industry pundit offers ideas to help travel advisors win at the social media game by making connections with new customers around the globe.

News Briefs
TMR Report Cards & Outlooks
Advertiser's Voice
Advertiser's Voice: Tauck