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World Travel & Tourism Council Urges U.S. To Ease Security Burdens

Going through U.S. customs can take more than an hour. And although the Department of Homeland Security is working on technology to speed up the time visitors spend going through customs and immigration screening, they still have a long way to go.

Thatís why the World Travel and Tourism Council, at the sixth-annual global summit in Washington, has called on the U.S. government to make crossing its borders easier for tourists and workers.

During informal panel discussions, executives representing major travel-related companies said many travelers to the U.S. worry whether they will be greeted with a welcome or a warning. The international group, meeting for the first time in the U.S., said the government should do more to improve the travel experience here.

The U.S. is now the world leader in travel sales, but its share of the world market has been shrinking since the early 1990s amid fast-growing economies in China, India and Eastern Europe, as well as a downturn following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Editorís note: Hotels, cruise lines, and tourist officials in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Canada are stepping up publicity efforts to make sure American patrons know that many of them will need passports when returning from those destinations in 2007. Only 27% of U.S. citizens have valid passports, according to the State Department.