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Kevin McAleenan, commissioner of the US government’s Customs and Border Protection, tells Sebastian Shehadi about the new technology that is facilitating seamless travel experiences. Commissioner McAleenan received the Global Champion Award at the World Travel & Tourism Council 2019 Global Summit in April.

Q: What would you like to tell investors, in terms of your agency’s balancing of frictionless travel, trade and investment, and the needs of national security?

A: We see the balance being achievable, and actually as two sides of the same coin: being able to provide effective security through biometric services, but also, making that a much better travel experience for the passenger. We’ve a string of five years, at our top 20 airports, of tremendous growth. More than 5% a year, over the past two years. However, we’ve reduced wait times over that period by partnering with the travel industry and working with airports and air carriers to streamline the arrival, to increase our membership in our trusted traveller programme, Global Entry, and then to apply technology to facilitate those arrivals.

We’re up to 15 million passengers who have used our biometric facial comparison system successfully. We’re getting a 98% match rate. That means you can’t have an imposter document, one the one hand from a security perspective, and from a seamless travel perspective, we’ve reduced all those administrative touches of hardcopy document are able to welcome travellers more efficiently, crossing our borders.  So we think the future of a biometric approach, working with the travel industry, is going to be tremendous for the global tourist.

A: The US being one of the first adopters of that tech, how do you see the industry picking that up?

The US Customs and Border Protection Agency has been at the forefront of facial recognition and biometrics. We’ve been testing and studying it for several years, we’ve settled on facial comparison technology because it’s the easiest and most accessible for the traveller. Everyone knows how to pose for a picture. What we’re doing is comparing a picture we have on file, against the picture of the passenger in front of us, and very quickly identify that it’s the same person.

Our vision of seamless travel involves this biometric tech that allows us to streamline border crossing, but also to streamline boarding. We’re seeing A380s in LAX boarding people in half the time, 400 plus passengers in 20 minutes. We’d like to invite our industry partners and government partners to join us in establishing this methodology in seamless travel.

A: Do you think this technology is incentivising travel, talent and investment into the US?

We’ve seen continued growth in travel to the US. Last year we set a new record of 130 million travellers; it was 89 million in 2009. So we believe that by the end of 2019, we’re going to have a 50% in a decade. That’s a tremendous string of unbroken growth.

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
fDi Magazine

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