To Recovery and Beyond!

As the travel and tourism industry recovers from the devastating effects of the COVID pandemic, it is encouraging to witness many airlines and airports reporting returns to ‘pre-pandemic levels’. While some restrictions and limitations remain in place, for the most part, passengers are returning in record numbers, and once again taking to the skies to travel the world for business and leisure.

To assure and sustain that recovery, we must not lose sight of our collective aspiration to improve passenger experiences, deliver the promise of seamless travel, and enhance security. 

It is not enough to aspire simply to get back to how things were in 2019. We need to aim higher. And remind ourselves – and our passengers – what we were trying to achieve before the pandemic brought travel and tourism to a standstill. Michelangelo timelessly captured the essence of that idea some five centuries years ago:

“ … the greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark …” 

Leveraging advances in technology to deliver better security

There are invaluable lessons to learn from our shared experience of the past three years. Working tirelessly together, government and industry designed and implemented new ways of working to protect public health. Digital Passenger Declarations and the use of Visible Digital Seals became commonplace almost overnight. And as ICAO continues to move forward with standardizing the Digital Travel Credential (DTC), the reality of ‘digital travel’ is now clearly on the horizon.

Technology, for its part, has certainly not stood still. To cite just a few examples: significant advances in machine-learning, artificial intelligence, LiDAR, data analytics, automation, robotics and explosive detection algorithms, present credible enhancements (or alternatives) to perimeter surveillance, incident response management, passenger screening and risk assessment.

Many governments now have firm plans to replace cabin baggage x-rays with far more advanced Computed Tomography (CT) systems, introducing explosive trace detection capabilities to the security checkpoint. The implementation of Explosive Detection Systems for Cabin Baggage (EDSCB) is a significant step forward and a major milestone for enhancing security.

Is it time for us all to get back together under one roof?

Perhaps what is missing today is an international forum that brings together regulators, practitioners, carriers, operators, technologists and academics – all under one roof – to focus exclusively on transportation security. This would create an environment for us to jointly examine the challenges and explore the possibilities of how, together, we can make travel safer, simpler and more secure. 

In aviation, IATA led the way with AvSec World for many years. Maybe, in this period of industry recovery, now is the time to reconsider the value of such a forum and encourage the likes of ICAOACIWTTCUNWTOCLIAIATA and others to elevate security on their global agendas, sustain focus, and commit to making continuous improvements over the coming years.

There is still much to be done to secure travel and tourism’s recovery. And it’s incumbent upon us to set our aim high.

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