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WEF study identifies biometrics as key growth driver of international travel and security


The World Economic Forum published a study titled “Digital Borders: Enabling a secure, seamless and personalized journey”, which calls for a new approach to the way travelers move across borders in order to establish a balance between meeting the increasing demand for international travel and the need to strengthen border security.

With the number of international travelers projected to increase by 46 percent to 1.8 billion per year by 2030, and governments focused on improving the safety of national borders, the report reveals that the combination of advanced technology and global cooperation is the most effective way to achieving tourism-related economic growth and border security.

“Technological solutions are helping the global travel system move from physical to digital borders,” said Tiffany Misrahi, aviation, travel and tourism industry lead at the World Economic Forum and principal author of the report. “Digital identification, biometrics, digitally enabled security devices and other tech-enabled screenings best increase accuracy, efficiency and security when travelling internationally.”

If not done properly, increasing border security could potentially have a negative impact on the continued growth of the tourism sector.

Enhanced digital screening technologies and techniques will enable the travel and tourism sector to continue to be a key driver of economic growth and job creation throughout the globe, the report states.

“Travel promotes peace and prosperity,” Arne Sorenson, CEO and president of Marriott International, and contributor to the study, said. “But the way we travel hasn’t changed much since the 1960s. Confronted with new challenges and opportunities, we need to revolutionize the journey using modern technologies to build a digital and inclusive system, trusted by travellers and governments alike, to connect us and keep us all safe.”

The study identifies seven key areas that need to be improved on in order to ensure stronger border controls and drive tourism.

The first area of recommendation is to increase intelligence and data sharing practices, particularly “secure, routine and harmonized intelligence and data sharing between sovereign national governments and international security actors on international travellers.”

Second, governments must provide advance passenger information in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution 2309 (2016), which urges countries to “Require that airlines operating in their territories provide advance passenger information to the appropriate national authorities to detect the departure from their territories, or attempted entry into or transit through their territories, by means of civil aircraft, of individuals designated by the Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015)”.

Third, the traveler component of the border security process should be done through biometric profiling and other technology-enabled solutions. In the future, national administrations should give travelers the opportunity to own their qualified digital biometric profile and enable them to push this secure accredited identification data in advance to facilitate travel, which will promote the wider use of pre-clearance and make international border crossings more efficient.

Fourth, countries must adopt ICAO-approved enhanced and harmonized biometric standards, which include biometrics for identity verification and travel eligibility.

Fifth, governments should expand multilateral agreements to incorporate the harmonized requirements for traveler data collected.

Sixth, governments should aim for a single application and a single fee for travel security programs.

The seventh and final area of improvement calls for transitioning to a digital process, whereby the entire process of border management could be a completely automated, electronic platform, based on verified biometric data.

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