Greater technology integration needed for seamless travel

Ctrip CEO Jane Sun speaking at the Asia Leaders Forum in Macau

WTTC is highlighting the urgent need for more efficient processing of airport passengers using technology such as biometrics, but in Asia, trust and security as well as intergovernmental cooperation could pose challenges.

Air traveller capacity is estimated to grow from four billion in 2017 to 7.8 billion by 2036, according to IATA projections.

Speaking at the Asia Leaders Forum, which was held in Macau and hosted by the Global Tourism Economy Forum last month, WTTC president & CEO, Gloria Guevara, said: “We have an initiative which uses biometric data to (facilitate more) seamless experience and safe journeys in all aspects of travel including airport, cruise, hotels and car rentals.”

Ctrip CEO Jane Sun speaking at the Asia Leaders Forum in Macau

As it is, she said many airports around the world already use facial scans for identification and hotels are allowing check-in via mobile phones or fingerprint scans.

“Asia is hot for technology and its adoption is really fast in this part of the world. About 50 per cent of millennials come from Asia where they are very used to (new) technology.”

The downside of the technological age, however, is that automation could mean a lot of jobs may not be around in five to 10 years, which highlights the need to better understand what the future holds. “With that knowledge, we can determine the necessary skill sets and train people appropriately.” International is also pushing for biometrics and for using WTTC’s platform as a traveller digital identity database.

CEO Jane Jie Sun, explained: “This requires the joint effort of three parties, namely authorities, travel industry and travellers. The only way to success is by gaining consent from travellers to access their data – passport/identity card, flight information, hotel reservation, car rental booking – as well as the cooperation from industry and support of government.”

Given technological advancements – such as in biometrics, blockchain and cryptography – authorities can retrieve required data for visa screening, border security, tax refund, anti-terrorism and other purposes, she remarked.

“It enables us to identify who’s travelling at what time, when or where, who needs help and what kind of person poses a threat to the travel ecosystem. Also for tax refund where we often have very long lines, by working together and using a robust database, the process can be streamlined.”

Exo Travel, CEO, Hamish Keith, said: “It’s vital to move forward, to become pioneers and to be at the forefront of this kind of technology. Obviously, a number of countries in South-east Asia are connected with a lot of travelling across the borders, so if we can synchronise this travel technology and data, it’d really help us to move our tourism forward quickly.

He opined that Asia is not ready for such all-encompassing technological change yet, but is hopeful that change will come.

Industry stakeholders like ZuZu Hospitality Solutions, co-founder, Vikram Malhi Sikram, added that challenges include the lack of resources for smaller hotels as well as security issues.

He said: “It is really hard for small independent hotels run by local entrepreneurs to adopt such technology. Unlike international hotel chains, they can’t afford and don’t have the know-how.

“It’s also about how quickly customers can trust and adapt to the process as security… Questions of trust in suppliers arise with information security (a big concern). There are a lot of consumer issues that need to be resolved.”

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