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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

U.S. Travel Industry in Trouble

Aired July 9, 2003 - 19:47   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the U.S. economy may be about to take a hit in one of the sector's least able to afford it, tourism. We are going to explain why in a moment. But the bottom line reason not surprisingly is security. That means always paying a financial cost now to avoid paying a financial cost and a human cost later on.
CNN's Patty Davis walks us through an upcoming security measure and the toll it might just take.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to the may flower.

PATTY DAVIS CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., the number of overseas guests has dropped 40 percent in the past year.

TERRANCE DUVALL, MAYFLOWER HOTEL: We don't want to see any more dropoffs obviously.

DAVIS: The Mayflower is not alone. The entire U.S. travel industry is hurting, and fears things are about to get worse. Starting next month, nearly every tourist who wants a visa to the U.S. will have to be interviewed in person at a U.S. embassy or consulate. The new rule is aimed at keeping terrorists out of the U.S. but the U.S. travel industry wants it delayed. Worried understaffed U.S. embassies won't be able to handle the extra load.

JOHN MARKS, TRAVEL INDUSTRY ASSN.: And the last thing we want to see is a line, you know, three blocks long trying to get a visa to come to the U.S. because someone is just going to say the heck with it. I think I'll go to Canada.

DAVIS (on camera): Starting this fall travelers from 27 countries who don't need visas to enter the U.S. will be required to have machine readable passports for a quick check against the terrorist watch list. Countries including Germany and France don't have that.

(voice-over): Experts say the new rules will have far less impact on the U.S. economy than another terrorist attack.

JOHN KEELEY, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: Post-9/11 this is something that has to be done because this addresses a systemic vulnerability in our system. We're playing -- the U.S. government is playing a game of catch-up here. RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: We're in the going to drop the security requirements just in order to have people come here faster.

DAVIS: Meanwhile, the Mayflower Hotel is doing what it can now to get international visitors back. Promoting itself at foreign embassies and offering special package deals to come visit.

Patty Davis, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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