updated 4/13/2005 7:31:11 PM ET 2005-04-13T23:31:11

Tourism officials in Washington state are concerned that proposed rules requiring Americans to have passports to re-enter the United States from Canada will be bad for business.

By 2008, any U.S. citizen returning to the United States from Canada, Mexico, Panama or Bermuda will have to show a passport under guidelines the Bush administration proposed Tuesday in the latest effort to deter terrorists from entering the country.

Some in the travel industry doubt people will apply for a passport just to go to Canada, and worry business will decline.

"So few Americans travel abroad that there is not a compelling need or case to get a passport," said Darrell Bryan, executive vice president for Victoria Clipper, a private ferry service that carries about 300,000 people annually on daily trips between Seattle and Victoria, British Columbia.

"This is just going to make it much more difficult for us to attract customers," Bryan said.

Others don't foresee any major problems. With travel to Washington from Canada beginning to bounce back, they're cautiously optimistic.

"We're going to pay close attention to this new development," said Peter McMillin, director of tourism and film for Washington state.

About 60 million Americans, roughly 20 percent of the population, have passports, according to the U.S. State Department.

Canadians also would have to present a passport to enter the United States beginning at the end of 2007 for air and sea travelers, and in 2008 at land crossings.

There are concerns that travel into Washington state will suffer, but McMillin said his agency will continue working with federal and industry officials to try to prevent that.

Congress called for the new rules in intelligence legislation it passed last year to tighten border security following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Customs officials in Washington state said Tuesday they were aware of the proposed regulations, but had little information about how it would affect traffic at border crossings.

"One of the things that it's designed to do is create more uniformity," said Mike Milne, public affairs officer for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

On average, 1.1 million people cross daily into the United States using one of its more than 300 ports of entry, including seaports, airports and land crossings, Milne said. Border agents refuse access to an average 1,237 people each day, about 54 of whom are non-citizens with criminal records.

Procedures already in place require that travelers show documents establishing identity and citizenship, Milne said. Although passports have not been mandated in the past, a form of government-issued picture identification and/or a birth certificate is needed.

Border agents also screen people by asking where they were born, where they live and what they did on their visits. "For most people that are crossing, it's fairly typical kinds of things," Milne said.

While a passport will be the document of choice at land crossings, another acceptable document will be the Border Crossing Card, or land visa, used by Mexican citizens traveling to the United States.

"I really think this all just stems from a need to validate someone's true identity," said Joe Giuliano, deputy chief for the U.S. Border Patrol's Blaine sector, which covers Western Washington, Oregon and Alaska.

The new rules will simplify the task of border inspectors who now must validate multiple forms of identification, and therefore expedite the process, Giuliano said. As with any change, he said he expects it will be considered an inconvenience at first.

"Ultimately ... we're going to see a broader requirement for passports in just about any international travel in this world," Giuliano said. "It's just going to become one of those things that becomes another everyday aspect of our lives."

The proposed rules are scheduled to be finalized this fall. Until then, the government will solicit comments from the public.

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