Resilience, Peace and Security

7 ways to make travel safer

A security official demonstrates a full body scanner during a photocall at Departure Gate 2 at Hamburg Airport September 27, 2010.

From biometric identification to seamless airport transfers, digital technology needs to be at the core of every journey we make. Image: REUTERS/Christian Charisius

Tiffany Misrahi
Vice-President of Policy, World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC)
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An unprecedented number of people are on the move, and the numbers are only going to keep rising. International arrivals rose from 25 million in the 1950s to 1.2 billion in 2016, and are expected to reach nearly 2 billion by 2030.

Meanwhile, the geopolitical landscape is changing fast, and we are witnessing a rise in nationalistic rhetoric. But putting up walls and introducing travel bans is not a sustainable solution to making countries safer: illegitimate travellers will become more creative while legitimate travellers will suffer.

What we need is a smart global approach, one which focuses on collaboration and the sharing of information to enhance our collective security. Global leaders need to fundamentally rethink policy frameworks and find innovative ways to help people move across international borders. And while enabling people to discover the world is important, it is imperative that we ensure the safety of national borders and citizens.

Image: World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum’s new report, Digital Borders, looks to a future in which eligibility to travel is based on the individual rather than the legacy system of a country of origin. In short, the cover of your passport shouldn’t be the primary factor in defining whether you can travel.

Over the past decades, we have seen technological advances revolutionizing global communications and transport - but these advances haven’t been applied to travel. But it can be done. In this digital age, technological solutions can and should be created to move the global system from one of physical to digital borders.

From digital identification and biometric authentication to seamless airport transfers, “digital” needs to be at the core of every journey made.

The report envisions a world in which travel will be safer for millions of people as intelligence and security organizations will be empowered with better tools, intelligence and data to perform their vital work more efficiently and effectively.

Drawing on the main findings of the report, here are 7 ways we can make travel safer:

1. More intelligence and data sharing. Secure, routine intelligence and data sharing between sovereign national governments and international security organizations on travellers is vital. While significant efforts have been undertaken to improve regular and timely information sharing, additional cooperation and collaboration among these groups is needed.

2. Provide advance passenger information. The global aviation system and the efforts of all governments to strengthen aviation security are critical to enabling the movement of people across borders. At the same time, sovereign nations are dependent on each other to provide a common secure aviation environment, which is undeniably connected to each nation’s individual economic security. We thus need to drive forward the UN Security Council Resolution 2309 (2016) which urges nations to require airlines to provide advance passenger information to the appropriate national authorities.

3. Make the traveller part of the solution. It’s time for governments to reconsider the role of the traveller. People on the move should be able to own their digital biometric profile and have the ability to push this secure data in advance to make their journey easier. Traveller participation will enable the wider use of pre-clearance and will make international border crossings more efficient.


4. Utilize enhanced harmonized biometric standards. International organizations have established harmonized and routine sharing of traveller data, including biometrics for identity verification and travel eligibility, which have improved security and facilitated international travel and commerce between partner countries. To take this forward, national governments need to implement the international standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization and assist emerging economies in implementing those standards.

5. Expand multilateral agreements. Based on the success of bilateral agreements to date, and on the current state of international security, governments should aim to expand established agreements multilaterally. These expanded agreements should incorporate the harmonized requirements for traveller data.

6. Aim for a single application and a single fee. Many nations currently collect country-specific applications, with varying information requirements and separate application fees for travel security programmes. For multi-national implementation, there should be a single application to electronic travel systems with harmonized security requirements and a single cost-based fee with appropriate revenue sharing between participating governments.

7. Move to a digital process. Over time, the entire process of border management used by most travellers should be a wholly automated, electronic platform, built on verified biometric data. Evidence is clear that e-visas do not undermine security; they facilitate border crossings for many travellers, reduce paperwork and allow public safety officials to direct more attention and resources to threat identification.

Digital Borders: Enabling a secure, seamless and personalized journey is available here.

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