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Biometrics are the future in travel - if the industry can coordinate, warns CEO

Jun 15 2019 08:00
Carin Smith

Biometric technology is the future of travel, but it is being applied in a fragmented way that means it can't reach its full potential, Gloria Guevara, president and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council – which represents the private sector – said earlier this month.

Guevara took part in a panel discussion at the 75th annual general meeting of the International Air Transport Association (Iata) in Seoul, South Korea.

Biometric technology is the measurement and analysis of people's unique physical and behavioral characteristics, mainly used for identification and access control. 

In Guevara's view, it is crucial to define global standards for the use of technology in the traveller's journey as fast as possible, and the WTTC is working with Iata to introduce biometric technology in non-aviation areas seamlessly. 

One ID

Research has found a fragmented approach to the use of biometrics in the industry, with at least 53 different implementations and trials in six regions across the world. The WTTC supports a resolution taken at the Iata AGM to encourage the faster global implementation of biometric passenger recognition.

Guevara urged the aviation industry leaders gathered at the event to support the Iata One ID initiative and assign resources to support the global pursuit of common standards and inter-operability for the benefit of the entire travel and tourism sector.

Guevara is, therefore, concerned that this creates competing agendas and no end-to-end, seamless journey is currently being developed.

On the other hand, the benefits of an inter-operability approach would include increased security, as well as a better and more efficient traveller journey, in her view.

Early advantage

"Those companies which support and adopt biometrics early will have a competitive advantage in the market, so it’s up to the airlines to support Iata in this important task," said Guevara.

She said it was recently reported that 71% of airlines and 77% of airports are currently investing in either researching or implementing biometric programmes.

"We applaud each of these efforts while also calling for the aviation industry to overcome fragmentation," she said.

"Governments around the world are waiting for the private sector to align around a common standard and framework that can work across the entire travel and tourism sector regardless of the individual technology provider."

Guevara cautioned that, if the industry ends up with multiple solutions in each country which do not connect with each other, the costs will be significant and create a risk of losing the very benefits which biometric technology can bring.

"Rather than operating in silos, it is crucial that we work together in pursuit of the common aim of finding a solution that will support the full end-to-end seamless traveller journey incorporating multiple airports, multiple airlines, car hire companies, hotels, booking agents, cruises and other players in the travel ecosystem," she said.

"This will allow us to have higher-level support from governments and to move faster to achieve higher growth."

* Fin24 is a guest of Iata at its AGM.

iata  |  wttc  |  iata agm  |  airlines  |  aviation
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