International travel on the decline?


The reported demise of international travel has been greatly exaggerated. And the need is greater than ever for advanced e-passports.

We’ve all read that threats of terrorism and economic uncertainty have negatively impacted the travel industry.

As Sales Director, I spend a fair amount of time passing through airports. As anyone who shares my travel schedule can attest, there seems to be no shortage of humanity funneling through airports.

According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) international tourist arrivals for business, leisure and other purposes are estimated to have declined worldwide by 4 percent last year. However, that still reflects a total of 880 million tourist arrivals annually worldwide. That’s over 100,000 people every hour; twenty-eight people each second.

The reality is we live in the age of a global economy, in a world where barriers continue to fall. People must continue to travel - for business, for leisure, to connect with friends and family - and they have a right to travel that is safe, efficient and convenient.

That’s why I’m excited by the growth of second-generation e-passports. The enhanced e-passport chip securely stores the holder’s personal data and biometrics - including photograph, fingerprint or iris - which is accessed through secure contactless technology.

Millions of electronic passports are already in circulation, and all major airports have initiatives to establish an e-border control infrastructure throughout 2010. In the words of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO): “This represents a first step in bringing global state travel document systems and technologies more in line with 21st century border control, facilitation and security objectives.” This trend will inevitably spur improvements in functionality and encourage the integration of ever more sophisticated security features.

Second-generation e-passports translate directly into increased efficiency and convenience for governments and their citizens, with secure contactless technology helping to make passport-based identity checks simpler, faster and more secure. The convenience of easier traveler processing at border crossing points is an obvious attraction of the RFID-enabled e-passport technology. And its greatest benefit is the role it will play in the next decade to safeguard against terrorism, illegal immigration and identity theft - the most pressing national security threats of our time.

Closer to home, with the global adoption of e-passports, perhaps all of us can spend less time in airports, and more time at our ultimate destinations.