Last year around 3.8 billion people took to the skies for business or pleasure, and that number is expected to double over the next few years. Improvements in technology and a desire to innovate have seen airports and airlines around the world begin to embrace the exciting changes in travel and start using technology to send passengers personalized information about flights, reservations or other travel arrangements, right when we need them the most.

From a customer’s perspective, mobile apps are the most visible evidence of this technological shift. Airports, airlines, hotels, and even cities have turned to mobile apps to provide solutions and improve the customer experience. It goes further than the ability to carry around travel documents, or access a translator or currency converter from the one device. For every problem a traveller might face abroad, there’s an app to help them solve it. Arrived at the airport and want to know where to find the nearest toilet or gift store? There’s an app that will point you in the right direction. Having trouble understanding the signs or menus in a foreign language? There’s an app that will translate them for you. The app offered by the Marriott chain of hotels allows guests to request toiletries and towels as well as check out, directly from their smartphone. Some airlines are even using RFID baggage tags on luggage and using apps to let passengers keep track of their bags.

But behind the scenes technology is improving the systems and thinning out the queues and cutting out the hassle of getting from check-in to the gate.

E-Visas and integrated management systems have completely redefined the travel and tourism industry, making visas easier for travellers to obtain and for government officials to track. The process to obtain a Malaysia tourist visa or Vietnamese tourist visa is about as much effort as ordering a pizza online. But visas aren’t the only documents going electronic, passports could also become a thing of the past. Australia started trialling the use of cloud passports back in 2015, with New Zealand also following suit.

Biometrics have also begun to make the dream of paperless airports into a reality. Earlier this year SITA began work with JetBlue and US Customs and Border Protection to test a paperless and deviceless self-boarding process. Passengers who opt in simply pause for a quick photo, and biometrics and facial recognition technology do the rest. The trial at Boston Logan Airport in Massachusetts is proving to be hugely successful. But biometrics isn’t just streamlining our trip to the airport. Airlines, hotel companies, car rental agencies, restaurant chains, these are just a few of the service providers that are now experimenting with biometrics to see how they can cater to the individual traveller.

These innovations are just the beginning. Thanks to the wide variety of travel technology emerging, the airport of the future is set to be a less stressful and more efficient place, and we can all expect a smoother journey from now on.

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