Safe and seamless journeys beyond aviation


As travel becomes increasingly connected and intermodal, having unified digital systems that simplify passenger travel by land, sea and air will become increasingly important.

Benoit Verbaere, Director of Business Development, Travel and Transport at SITA Europe, shares his thoughts on the digital shift caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and explains how SITA brings its IT and expertise to the wider travel market.

As the pandemic has reshaped travel, how do you see the state of the market right now? What does the landscape look like from a recovery perspective?

The pandemic has not stifled people’s desire to travel. It has reshaped the way they travel. Passengers have told us they want a simple travel experience that uses technology – like their smartphones – to make every step of the journey easier. COVID-19 has had a profound impact on the functioning of the travel industry, forcing it to refocus on passenger travel as a quasi-introductory digital experience. Based on SITA’s own research, we have seen airline and airport IT investment priorities shift towards more self-service, biometric and contactless technologies. It is no different for other modes of transport.

Are the requirements common to the entire travel industry the same as for air transport? How is SITA positioned to help?

Whatever the form of travel, it requires safe and smooth automated journeys, smarter and more efficient borders, better punctuality and greater capacity. Across the travel industry, we face similar issues and there is a need to address them together through common and shared approaches, whether for air travel, cruises, railways or events.

SITA has developed solutions for the airline industry where passengers can use their mobile phone to manage every step of their journey and their face to be recognized at every touch point. For example, our SITA Flex cloud platform allows passengers to use their mobile anywhere in the airport without having to go to a counter or a fixed check-in kiosk. It uses APIs and the cloud to extract and manage travel data, providing passengers with mobile self-service and automated travel, whether inside or outside the airport. Combined with SITA’s Smart Path, our self-service biometric solution, passengers can be identified at every stage using their face as their identity.

This digital passenger experience can be replicated in other modes of transport. For example, biometric boarding would allow cruise passengers who have registered their passport and biometric data on the cruise app to board the ship using only their face.

Railway stations also have common requirements with airports in the way they run their stations. They need to improve passenger flow through better signage, manage disruptions by providing timely information, communicate with travelers in multiple languages, and integrate operational and passenger data. Again, they can take advantage of our expertise and the solutions we have developed for airlines and airports.

We have the solutions, the expertise and the services to offer connected travel, whatever the mode of travel.

We have seen, particularly across Europe, a move towards more intermodal travel with rail to air or cruise. How can we help make these journeys smoother?

Travelers today want an interconnected and integrated travel experience – whether they travel by road, air or rail – and like every other aspect of our lives, managed through their mobile. From the moment they walk through the door to catch a train to the airport, they want each leg of the journey to fit seamlessly into the next. Intermodal travel solutions are not new, but so far they have not been mainstreamed. While today you can buy a ticket that combines both plane and train, the journey is often not smooth. Here’s where we can help.

At SITA, we have experience bringing together multiple stakeholders through a single platform and helping to embrace digital ways to simplify experiences and operations. If you look at a single flight from Paris to Geneva, for example, there are up to 10 stakeholders – airline, airports, border agency and ground service providers – that need to work together to support that flight. Our solutions make it possible. As we transition to an intermodal ecosystem of 100+ active contributors to deliver connected travel, we are able to support unified digital systems that make travel easier. And the journey doesn’t end when you arrive. It takes you to the doorstep of world events and tourist experiences. We add value to serving these cross-modal offerings, where capturing data and translating data patterns from one industry to another in a consistent manner is essential.

We have a strong border solution used primarily at the airport. Can these solutions be used on other borders, such as at sea?

We started our border business in 1996 in preparation for the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Our activity is focused on the safe movement of people. Whether it’s major events like the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, or a family going on vacation, we’ve been there to make it easy and secure. Over the years, we have refined our intelligence and targeting capabilities to help governments detect suspicious activity and take targeted action to protect their borders. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, border solutions have also played a vital role in mitigating health risks and restoring passenger confidence. Now, with a comprehensive end-to-end border management portfolio covering the entire passenger journey, we are in an excellent position to extend our aviation expertise to land and sea borders. It’s another step towards a completely seamless and secure experience, whether you’re traveling by plane, train or car.

Simplifying data exchange and improving security and the traveler experience is in the interest of all stakeholders. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.


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