Deep Dive: Why Digital ID Solutions Could Be Key To Helping The Travel And Tourism Sectors Take Flight

traveler in airport

The pandemic has ushered in innumerable changes for businesses of all stripes, but few have been hit as hard as those in the travel and tourism sectors. Many nations have heavily restricted inbound and outbound travel as they work to curb the spread of the coronavirus, dramatically reducing business for airlines and other travel-oriented firms and driving shifts in how such firms verify and board passengers or customers.

There is growing evidence to suggest that technology could hold the key to renewing confidence in global travel and jump-starting recovery in the beleaguered industry. One recent survey of more than 6,000 travelers in France, Germany, India, Singapore, the U.K. and the U.S. revealed that 84 percent of travelers would feel more confident traveling in the next year if efforts were made to assuage their crowd-related fears, address social distancing protocols and reduce the physical contact required during airline and hotel check-ins.

Digital identity solutions appear especially well-placed to address these travel concerns. The same study found that 34 percent of those who expressed reservations about traveling during the health crisis would be more likely to travel if given access to biometric authentication measures that allowed them to check in, pass through security and board their flights without physical contact. Thirty-three percent of travelers said they would value access to a universal ID credential they could store on their mobile devices, allowing them to view and provide all necessary identity and vaccination documentation in one place.

Contactless capabilities are thus beginning to play a larger role in driving consumers’ preferences for digital ID solutions when traveling, especially internationally. This month’s Deep Dive examines how pandemic-driven travel restrictions, social distancing protocols and safety concerns are altering consumer habits and details how digital technologies like biometrics can help consumers feel more comfortable taking flights and staying in hotels once they reach their destinations.

The Realities Of Travel During The Pandemic

Many travelers have fears surrounding travel in the current environment, but some research suggests that their worries may be largely unfounded. The Montreal-based International Air Transport Association maintains that air travel is safe, reporting as recently as November that there had been fewer than four dozen COVID-19 cases associated with flights since the beginning of 2020. Roughly 1.2 billion passengers booked flights during that period, according to the association.

Consumers may be reluctant to fly despite the evidence suggesting that such activities pose little risk for viral infection, but there is optimism that digital ID solutions can allay their concerns and get them back in the air faster. A survey found that 38 percent would like to cut down on crowding in public spaces, 31 percent would value more protection for their financial and personal information and 28 percent would favor technology that can ensure the accuracy and effectiveness of viral testing and tracing programs. It concluded that contactless digital solutions, such as apps and biometric authentication measures, and cooperation between airlines and governments on implementing and standardizing these technologies could be key to reinvigorating travel.

Digital Identification Solutions For The Hospitality Sector

The hospitality industry has experienced its own pandemic-related struggles, but some hotel chains and management firms have looked to digital ID solutions to address consumers’ safety concerns. Several months into the pandemic, MGM Resorts debuted a contactless check-in process that allows customers to use its mobile app to verify themselves, pay for their rooms and even receive digital keys. The solution enables them to wholly avoid interacting with employees during their stays if they choose to do so.

Other hotel chains are recognizing the utility of leveraging biometric technologies to verify employees and monitor their attendance during the pandemic. Three hotels operated by Iraqi Millennium Hotels announced late last fall that they would be utilizing an iris-based biometric identification solution to accurately log employees’ work hours and attendance. The offering is particularly timely because it also allows workers to verify themselves while observing pandemic-related safety protocols such as mask wearing and social distancing.

The pandemic has forced the global economy to adapt, and the travel and hospitality sectors have pivoted to survive despite restrictions, social distancing requirements and consumers’ anxieties. The vaccination efforts underway around the globe are working to make the pandemic a thing of the past, but the digital ID and biometric solutions that are fast becoming the norm in the travel and hospitality industries are likely to remain.