Businesses on both sides of the Mexican and Canadian borders are concerned about the potential impact of new passport laws for travelers crossing into Mexico and Canada by land or sea. At one time, you didn’t need a passport to travel to Mexico or Canada. However, in 2007, under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, the government began requiring passports for people re-entering the US from Mexico or Canada by air. Starting in June of 2009, the government will also require passports for people traveling to Mexico, Canada and Bermuda by land and sea.

As MSNBC reports, businesses that depend on tourists from across the Mexican and Canadian borders are concerned that the new requirements may adversely affect on their business. For example, at the Jay Peak Ski Resort in Vermont, almost half of the visitors are Canadian.  Resort owners fear that many of these visitors are not yet aware of the new passport requirements for driving across the border, which could cause people without passports to change or even cancel their travel plans.

Concern over the new passport laws cuts both ways. reports that Canadian officials are also concerned about losing business from US customers. The article quotes Marianne Rude, Washington representative for Manitoba, Canada:

“I think the document possession rate is really key. I can’t stress enough how much Canadian communities, in particular, are concerned about that,” Rude said. “Since the year 2000, U.S. visits to Canada have dropped by 41 percent. A lot of factors have played a part in that but enhanced border procedures and unclear document requirements have certainly played a role.”

Hopefully, any impact on tourism from the new laws will be minimal and temporary.  As time goes on, more and more travelers will become aware of the change and apply for new passports to vacation across the border.  If you don’t have a US passport, now is the best time to apply. The closer we get to June, the more passport applications the government will be dealing with. A sudden surge in new passport applications could cause processing delays, so applying now could prevent headaches later.