Travel Tech to the Rescue: How Technology Can Help Avert Future Travel Disruption

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital solutions, especially in travel, transport and hospitality. This digital transformation has already seen the application of contactless services in some areas of travel, and, once the current crisis has passed, this will expand to encompass all aspects of a journey, from booking to completion. Indeed, many travel companies are already employing IT solutions to establish scalable operations and implement new safety measures.
5 min read
9/12/20
All articles
By Vasily Malinov
Vice President, Travel, Transportation & Hospitality
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Travel Tech to the Rescue: How Technology Can Help Avert Future Travel Disruption

This topic was discussed at the recent WTM Contactless 360 conference, held on November 11, 2020. The panel - composed of Bryon Webster, Executive Director, Sales & Marketing at SABA Hospitality Technology Solutions, Jason Jeffreys, Founder of FETCH, and Vasiliy Malinov, VP of Travel, Transportation & Hospitality at DataArt, and moderated by Pascal Benn, Business Solutions Manager at Focus Travel Group - had some interesting insights from analysis of real-world travel industry examples. Let’s look at these examples in detail.

Air Travel

Touchless systems can be used at every stage of the air travel experience, from travel preparation to booking, payment, arriving at the airport, check-in, security, waiting for departure, boarding, onboard, and arrival. But who’s already adapted their processes in this sector?

Contactless Services

In July 2020, Avinor (a Norwegian operator of civil airports) introduced contactless solutions at Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger, and Trondheim that allow passengers to check-in and drop bags without touching machines, and without any interpersonal contact. This CUSS application was created in cooperation with Amadeus and ICM Airport Technics, and Avinor plans to deploy the systems at other airports soon.

Major carriers, including Austrian, KLM, Swiss, Lufthansa, and China Southern, have started to use electronic bag tags created by Bagtag EBT Platform Solutions. And Abu Dhabi International Airport, together with Meta Touch, installed 53 touchless elevators that can be controlled with gestures.

Socially Distanced Services

To keep in line with regulations regarding social distancing, American Airlines and Delta Airlines have deployed push notifications via their proprietary apps, which inform passengers of their baggage status in order to avoid crowding around baggage carousels.

Smart tunnels have been introduced at Dubai International Airport; these utilize facial recognition software to optimize immigration control and minimize queues.

Safety Services

On the safety side, Hong Kong International Airport is using intelligent sterilization robots for cleaning, and South Korea Incheon International Airport intends to use robots that will monitor if passengers wear masks.

Other examples of touchless technologies and safety systems that are already in use all over the world include:

  • Temperature scanning or thermal imaging
  • Self-boarding gates
  • Apps for onboard self-service
  • Self-service kiosks operated with smartphones, voice or gestures
  • Self-cleaning lavatories
  • Digital seat back information
  • QR code and online orders at airport restaurants
  • Airline and airport notifications regarding crowds and hotspots
  • Contactless payment.

The Future of Travel

There are some innovations just starting to see the light of day that will shape the future of the travel industry. For example, Pandea IT, an Israeli company that specializes in creating digital ID cards, has invented a COVID-19 immunity passport. This passport consists of a photo, a digital signature, a hologram and a chip. At its outset, it will contain COVID-19 testing information, but the company plans to add further health data in the future. Pandea claims that for this solution to have the biggest impact, it must be approved by a government and implemented across a whole country, and to this end the company is in touch with several governments and is seeking WHO approval.

Ground Transportation

Ground transportation operators are also working on implementing touchless travel. This includes Eurostar, which has adopted facial recognition technologies, and which plans to introduce touchless boarding next year. Passengers will be able to scan their ID using the Eurostar app before a trip, and at St. Pancras they will enter a contactless travel corridor equipped with biometric scanners. Eurostar is cooperating with iProov Limited to enable this technology.

In the car rental sector, EnjoyTravel is allowing travellers to book cars online and pick up the keys from a secure Smartbox, avoiding in-person service entirely.

Hospitality

Hospitality providers are already busily trying to reduce touchpoints for their customers, with varied success. Hotels are starting to use robots instead of humans at reception and for cleaning; many are also utilizing self-serve check-in desks, check-in via video link, and touchless elevators. CitizenM was one of the first on the market, and it provides its clients with digital check-in, check-out, and room control, all via its app.

The Singapore-based company Vouch has created digital concierge bots, which customers can reach anytime during their stay. IntraEdge Solutions has released a contactless temperature-check kiosk for guests and hotel personnel. This scans temperature in three to five seconds and informs the subject of their result with a YES/NO command. And Nuvola created a tool that allows hotel staff to manage safety and cleaning procedures more effectively. In addition to these specifics, there are also numerous operators experimenting with contactless parking, voice activation in hotels, digital hotel keys and more.

Challenges

An important consideration during this digital revolution is the issue of privacy. Since many of the travel solutions we have discussed use sensitive customer data, cybersecurity must be a priority. These touchless technologies must also be accessible to all customers, regardless of age, race, gender or ability. This accessibility includes connectivity - all the tech in the world is useless unless there is a secure and strong wireless internet connection available to everyone.

Conclusion

Although touchless technologies are not new for either travelers or operators, the pandemic has accelerated the trend, and this momentum will only grow as technology leapfrogs previous obstacles, and the industry fully embraces the advantages of digital tech. But for tourism to rebound successfully, cooperation between all industry players is crucial. Operators, governments, solutions providers and clients must all accept these new technologies in order to move forward.

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