With virus sniffing dogs in Helsinki, quarantined international
business meetings in Singapore and a new travel pass for everyone, the
travel and tourism industry is working night and day to overcome the
barriers to travel in the torrid time delivered by the Covid pandemic.
Throw in antigen testing in Germany and biometric boarding systems in
Asia, and there is no shortage of effort and accumulated brain power
focused on building a Covid defence force across the globe.
Among governments, airlines, airports, the hospitality industry and
the corporate travel sector, the common task is to find solutions that
will provide infection protection and biosecurity while restoring
confidence in travel that will, in turn, generate the rebuild of
A handful of countries, among them Singapore, are relaxing
restrictions on business travellers but the sector is still having to
rely to a large extent on virtual meetings, a situation that’s unlikely
to change until wide-scale vaccinations for Covid-19 allow international
borders to reopen.
Figures from the Global Business Travel Association show 94% of its
members flew for business prior to March 2020, before the start of the
pandemic, but just 6% have flown since.
“A clear illustration in the loss of revenue not only for the
business travel industry, but from corporations not closing new business
deals to the wider global economy and GDP,” said Dave Hilfman, interim
executive director GBTA.
New meeting facilities @ Changi
Business travellers will be allowed to enter Singapore for up to a
period of 14 days when they will undergo the necessary routine medical
checks while accommodated in dedicated facilities.
The first [email protected] pilot short-stay facility will launch in the
first quarter of 2021 at Singapore EXPO, located close to the airport.
Meetings will take place on-site with more than 600 guest rooms and
about 170 meeting rooms available.
The Singapore solution is another small step in rebuilding confidence
in the corporate travel sector, but what the travel industry in general
has so far failed to achieve is a Covid-testing regime that is
universally accepted by authorities, a point raised by IATA, which is
preparing to launch its Travel Pass.
Travel Pass stores encrypted data including verified test or
vaccination results on the mobile device of the traveller. The traveller
controls what information is shared from their phone with airlines and
authorities. To address privacy concerns, no central database or data
repository will store the information.
Open standards enable the modules to be used as one solution or to
complement capabilities being developed by other solutions providers.
“We are building the IATA Travel Pass with one aim—to help reconnect
our world safely,” said Nick Careen, IATA's SVP airport, passenger,
cargo and security.
An IATA Travel Pass trial involving International Airlines Group (IAG) is due to launch in Q1 2021.
For now, Lufthansa’s walk-in testing facilities at airports in
Germany in association with genetic testing firm Centogene, have proved
popular with travellers. Frankfurt Airport has the capacity to handle
20,000 analyses per day, providing Centogene with key data on positivity
rates which they can use to better focus screening efforts in the
“We’re convinced that testing is definitely the best way to fight the
pandemic, much better than the quarantine. It gives you specific
information on your health status, which is good for fighting the
pandemic, but also for the travellers, as it gives them security on
whether they’re infected or not,” says Bjoern Becker, senior director of
product management, ground and digital services, Lufthansa.
Becker says PCR tests are considered the gold standard for detecting the virus with 99% sensitivity.
Lufthansa is looking into other solutions such as the CommonPass, a
digital health passport from the World Economic Forum (WEF) which has
been used by Cathay Pacific on its Hong Kong-Singapore service as well
by United on its London-New York flights.
The CommonPass project is a broad coalition of public and private
partners collaborating to launch “a trusted, globally-interoperable
platform for people to document their COVID-19 status (health
declarations / PCR tests / vaccinations) to satisfy country entry
requirements, while protecting their health data privacy”.
“Testing and health passports are the two best options in the travel
industry’s toolkit to combat pandemic-related fears,” says Volkmar
Weckesser, CIO, Centogene.
In the meantime, Covid-19 detecting dogs will continue to check out
international passengers arriving in Finland; Qatar Airways’ Wellness
Ambassadors will reassure passengers it’s safe to fly and AirAsia will
boost its investment in contactless, biometric boarding systems across
its service footprint.
Different strategies each linked to one ambition: to pulverise the pandemic.