Fourth Industrial Revolution

Would you share your data if it made travelling safer?

Tourists take a 'selfie' as they visit the hill of Areios Pagos with the archaeological site of the Acropolis in the background in Athens, Greece, August 17, 2015.

Better data-sharing could make travelling a safer, more seamless experience Image: REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

Rob Torres
Managing Director, Travel, Google
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We live in an age of smart fridges and TVs, where robots can think and do things once only humans could. And yet global travel security still hasn’t caught up to the potential of digital and technology. At the heart is this little four-lettered word: data. Are people willing to give it up? Are countries willing to openly share it to make travel more secure?

Last year at Google, we decided to try and find the answers to those questions. To do so, we ran consumer surveys to better understand what consumers think of a global access programme, a system that would allow for more secure and expedited access to countries around the world, provided travellers share data about themselves. We ran two surveys across four countries – the UK, the US, Spain and Mexico – to track cultural and regional differences.

We found four common strands across all four markets:

  • There was concern about the cost and financial burden of travel. This should be a focus of any future marketing programme related to facilitating international travel.
  • The more we can demonstrate the cost and time saved by a global access programme, the more people will be interested in taking part.
  • In particular, younger people responded positively to the idea of a global access programme. This makes sense given what we know about millennials: They see themselves as “citizens of the world”. They want to feel empowered in every aspect of their lives, especially their right to travel the world. They seem less tolerant of bureaucracy and tedious time-swallowing procedure than previous generations. They are more than happy to pay more to save time.

When we dug deeper, we found interesting differences across the countries. Some countries were much more likely to apply, and some countries were less willing to share their data.

Source: Google Consumer Surveys May 2015, N=500

While there might be varying comfort levels with what we are willing to offer up at the onset, the overriding sentiment is that people around the world want a better global travel experience.

But technology and data alone won’t get us there. We need people to buy in. We need whole countries to change the way things have been done for many, many years. Getting to a future of secure and seamless travel will take, as the saying goes, a village. Important partners along the way will be governments, international security agencies, data security experts, technology leaders and academics.

In my time at Google, I have learned that technology is cold and powerless without the human emotion of trust to harness it. The future of smart travel isn’t just about data tapping and information exchange: it’s about building greater trust and collaboration in our world, among individuals, countries and nationalities. It has implications far beyond travel and the travel industry. And for that reason, it is worth every ounce of the concerted effort and focus we are devoting to it.

To find out more about the work on Security in Travel undertaken by the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Travel & Tourism, which Rob Torres chairs, read Security in Travel: Promoting Seamless and Secure Travel through Cross-Border Data Sharing and Collaboration

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Fourth Industrial RevolutionIndustries in DepthResilience, Peace and Security
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