Recognising that travellers’ stress levels are highest at the security and immigration process and at baggage pick-up, SITA has advanced its technology solutions to make these two areas as hassle-free as possible.
The company, which specialises in IT solutions for airlines, airports, aircraft and governments, launched on July 28 the new SITA eVisa and SITA Electronic Travel Authorization (SITA ETA) to enable governments to rebuild inbound tourism quicker, more smoothly, and with greater emphasis on security.
The mobile capability of SITA eVisa and SITA ETA allows travellers to make applications and provide their biometric information using their personal devices before they travel.
In an interview with TTG Asia, Sumesh Patel, president – Asia Pacific with SITA, said moving these pre-trip processes online helps governments better manage their immigration procedures under current reopening challenges, which can range from safe distancing needs to labour shortage.
“Pre-pandemic, there were a lot of countries that offer visa-on-arrival, and there are many that still do so today. However, the pandemic has forced airports to avoid large crowds on facility, which can happen when incoming travellers are waiting in line for their visas. At the same time, people expect safe distancing, which puts pressure on airports having to process VOAs in limited space. There are also concerns about having to touch things at the airport,” Patel explained.
Both SITA ETA and SITA eVisa can also alleviate the manpower pressure faced by many airports and embassies today, opined Patel.
“We have a user case study where one of the countries using SITA eVisa was able to increase its inflow of travellers by 20 per cent. Travellers found it much easier to get their visas online. That increased the satisfaction of the traveller, improved tourism inflow and earnings, and in turn created 800 new tourism and hospitality jobs in the country,” shared Patel.
In terms of baggage processes, Patel highlighted the immense pressure on airports, airlines and travellers today.
“The number of lost baggage rose by 20 per cent between 2020 to 2021. As travel started picking up this year, 1Q2022 saw three times more lost baggage compared to 1Q2021. When we went into 2Q2022, that volume expanded by five times. This is mainly due to the shortage of staff that are needed to manage the transfer of baggage,” said Patel.
“The solution to this is technology,” he added, pointing to SITA Bag Manager, a system that helps airlines, airports and ground handlers reconcile, track and manage baggage, as well as SITA WorldTracer.
Patel said the latter is the world’s only fully global baggage tracing and matching system that works irrespective of airport or airline. To further ease travellers’ stress in the event of lost luggage, SITA recently debuted a self-service module for SITA WorldTracer. Passengers are able to track their bags and file a lost luggage report on their personal device, without having to seek help from an airport agent. Once the bag is found, they can track its transfer and know when they can expect to receive it.
Patel believes that reducing travellers’ stress and cutting down processing time at airports will create an impressive start to the journey and shape travellers’ perception of the country.
He noted that most Asian airports are learning from the operational challenges seen at some European airports; they are hiring a lot faster as well as deploying technology sooner than initially planned.