2021 Travel Technology Trends

In spite of the COVID -19 pandemic forcing a hard stop on travel over the last year, and the catastrophic decline in passenger travels and hotel stays over the last 14 months, there is no shortage of travel technology development. Quite the opposite.

Pre-pandemic, ease of travel was the main focus. Technology such as CLEAR is a good example. Post-pandemic, the technology has expanded to include contactless (artificial intelligence) service for check-in at airports and hotels, health & vaccination visas for entering countries, and digital identity (such as biometrics).

What is Digital Identity?

A cloud-based process, experts believe digital identity documents will sooner, rather than later, replace traditional passports and associated credentials. This will allow for more secure as well as seamless travel. Beyond travel, the government, banking, and technology industries will need to work together to create this balance globally. This will apply abundantly in cross-border environments, providing the ability to manage one’s biometrics, biographic, and historical travel data. As with other cloud-based services, security is top priority to prevent identity theft and fraud through data-breaches, as well as the possible infringement on one’s freedom.

Health/Vaccine Visa

As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout began earlier this year, world leaders gathered globally to discuss the process to jump start each of their economies, including travel and tourism – which is in some cases the only economy held by a country. Another form of digital identity, but only in reference to a traveler’s health, countries are considering a passport-like document that proves vaccination status, and determines if they may travel to and from particular parts of the world. Denmark’s Coronapas, Israel’s Green Pass, and Estonia’s QR code program are just a few of the examples already in place. According to the CDC, “the U.S. government is exploring COVID-19 vaccine certifications for use internationally and domestically,’ and the EU plans to open its borders fully in June to individuals from countries who can easily produce vaccination records from countries with a “good epidemiological situation.”

Biometrics

According to Sean O’Neill, senior travel tech editor at Skift, “Airlines and other travel companies have been testing more than 50 systems for so-called biometric identification technologies, such as faceprint scans. But the industry needs to agree on standards for collecting, tracking, exchanging, and protecting travelers’ data to speed everyone’s journeys.” Hotels, airlines, and cruises currently use this technology to not only eliminate the need for paper documents, but to also increase the speed at which individuals travel, and in some cases, cutting wait times by 30-40%. In December 2020, the World Travel Tourism Council also announced its support of the Safe & Seamless Traveller Journey (SSTJ) initiative, which is foundationally based on biometrics.

What’s Next?

So much technology. So many vital needs globally. So many ways to be used. Trends in travel technology don’t appear to show any signs of stopping. Read here for further trends in the travel industry – now and in the future.

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