The U.S. Travel Association praised the Department of Homeland Security’s Thursday announcement of a one-year REAL ID enforcement delay, but cautioned that a longer extension may be necessary to ensure that implementation won’t further disrupt the already devastated American travel economy.
In a March 26 letter to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, U.S. Travel cited polling data showing that the U.S. had not made significant strides toward REAL ID compliance even before the coronavirus crisis. A new analysis compiled by U.S. Travel and Longwoods International, a market research consultancy, shows that if REAL ID were implemented today, an estimated 67,400 travelers would be turned away at airport security checkpoints on the first day, and more than 471,800 within the first week.
“As the administration considers a new enforcement date, the travel industry encourages you to ensure that enforcement would not negatively impact the travel and tourism industry,” the letter reads in part. “The current growth in the compliance rate coupled with historical recovery rate after significant economic decline indicates even the most optimistic scenario would take at least two years for Americans and the economy to adequately handle enforcement.”
The latest compliance figures have not substantially changed from data U.S. Travel released in September. The finding comes despite good steps by Department of Homeland Security to create greater flexibility in the REAL ID application process, and broad efforts among America’s travel industry to boost awareness among the traveling public.
The coronavirus crisis is a further game-changer.
“The already difficult task of bringing the country closer to REAL ID compliance is now clearly impossible due to the coronavirus crisis,” said U.S. Travel President and CEO Roger Dow Thursday. “Over the next 18 months people will be focused on building their lives back, not going to the DMV. The economic damage of coronavirus is already massive, and as we move toward a recovery phase it would be awful if the REAL ID deadline hits and creates yet another obstacle to people traveling.”
U.S. Travel Association is the national, non-profit organization representing all components of the travel industry. In 2020, travel generated $1.5 trillion in economic output and supported 11 million jobs, a drastic decline from pre-pandemic figures. U.S. Travel's mission is to increase travel to and within the United States. Visit ustravel.org for information and recovery-related data.