What did you feel was lacking within the industry that led to the company being founded, and what did you have in mind that Travizory would be able to offer from the outset?
Travizory was set up by a group of border security experts looking to make travel simpler, safer, and more secure for travellers but also for the countries that welcome them. The team shares a love for travel and believe in its inherent value – the ability to experience other cultures, appreciate different landscapes and open our minds to countries outside of our own. But with my many years of experience working in border security, I am acutely aware of the challenges, and in some cases, dangers that countries face when they open to international travellers.
I understand how difficult it is to manage all the different players involved in getting people from A to B when an international border is part of the equation and I have seen first-hand how often security systems fall short of what is needed. From the transport operators to airport staff, immigration, customs, law enforcement and others – you’re often talking of upwards of ten separate entities that need to cooperate and collaborate to ensure security.
This may not be a new challenge, but it’s never been more pressing than today.
From “traditional” threats like illegal migration, drug trafficking and terrorism, we need to be better prepared for new and sophisticated risks, like global pandemics, that no one sees coming. The COVID-19 crisis is a prime example of how inflexible many countries, and the legacy systems they deploy, have become.
With COVID-19 every border management system in the world was made obsolete overnight. No single Border Management System, visa, Travel Authorisation, or health declaration was able to handle such a shock.
The inability to adapt, react and respond to such a huge threat meant that borders had to close almost completely, with no alternative way to manage the risks and maintain a safe influx of travellers, whether that be tourists or returning citizens. The lesson for the industry: it’s time to move away from 20th Century systems and embrace next-generation solutions, based on cutting-edge technologies and innovative thinking.
We’re seeing chaos continue at international hubs around the world as countries face the challenge of re-opening and navigating the ‘new normal’ where border security is also the domain of new stakeholders, like health and increasingly for some, tourism.
Travizory was originally set up to facilitate seamless, contactless, and secure digital border crossings and we believe that is what we offer in the future. By helping countries to better manage their borders, providing them with unparalleled real-time data from multiple sources, and combining this into one single view of the passenger, we enable cross-agency collaboration, support informed decision-making and guarantee maximum security with minimum friction.
Our unique products can be adapted to tackle the risk of the moment, and our work developing Seychelles’ Health Travel Authorisation is proof of that. By quickly reconfiguring our electronic Travel Authorization system, with a focus on specific Public Health needs, we’ve been able to support the safe reopening of the island nation. Using facial biometrics, AI, and machine learning technologies as well as data from airlines, ours is a unique product that provides the next-generation in border security – easily accessible to small and developing nation-states around the world.
The last 18 months has had a major impact on commercial airline travel, what have you learnt from this moving forward?
The biggest lesson from COVID is that we can never get complacent. Security risks come in all shapes and sizes and may originate somewhere that we have never even thought of, so it’s important to always be alert and continually anticipate what might come next. This is as true for nations and border agencies as it is for airlines transporting passengers and for the airports handling them. While COVID might be today’s threat – but it won’t be the last. We all remember the damage caused by SARS and Ebola, so future proofing our systems to ensure diseases are contained and future pandemics are anticipated is crucial.
Hand in hand with that increased need to focus on security, however, is prioritising the passenger and the traveller experience. It is important that countries continually innovate to push the boundaries when it comes to customer service. Passenger confidence took a massive hit because of the pandemic, meaning that countries are also faced with new and intensified competition from destinations perceived to be safer and simpler to visit. Seychelles is a prime example of how important a solid reputation and clear COVID-19 safety measures are to reigniting interest from travellers – since we launched the Seychelles Islands Travel Authorisation, inbound visitor numbers have shot back up to 70% of pre-COVID levels in under one year.
Airlines, governments, and security providers, like Travizory, need to work together more closely going forward. This is no longer an option, but a necessity. COVID-19 was a useful catalyst for conversations about the future of borders, with contactless processes becoming more commonplace, and digital systems becoming the norm.
We started Travizory before the pandemic hit, but it’s clear to us that our vision is more relevant than ever and that our product really can deliver the future of border crossing.
Can you explain the process of how you go about applying your technology in or for a country to open its borders once more? How long does this take, and what training is involved?
Firstly, one of the defining features of our system is our cloud-based, software-as-a-service approach which guarantees agility and flexibility. We work with Amazon Web Services to host our system, using their Tier-4 data centres located in Europe to securely store data and provide all security measures required for Travizory to meet international standards around data privacy and protection. Our solution is fully compliant with GDPR, and we have applied privacy by design principles. This also means that our government customers just need internet access and a browser to make use of our system – no need for in-country infrastructure or cumbersome and unsecured local data centres.
What this means is that we can help countries to implement a bespoke security system in a fraction of the time of legacy providers. Our technology can be operationally ready in as little as 6 weeks, so in a little, over a month a country can completely overhaul its national security and boost its borders.
Secondly, the system is developed with end-users in mind. We’ve designed a user-friendly, intuitive, and simple platform so that training is minimal, and people can get onboarded in as little time as possible. We make sure we understand the specific needs of each customer and all users so that we tailor the platform to their requirements. This means we replicate as much of the existing system as possible – only we make it simpler, streamlined and more efficient in a digital format.
Finally, we know that needs can change, so we’ve designed a system that can be updated and adapted to suit our customers’ demands. Often this can be done in real-time, meaning little to no downtime minimal disruption. We provide infinite product upgrades and every other week we provide new or enhanced features to our customers, at no cost to them.
What new technology have you introduced to the industry, and what has been the feedback from those using it daily?
Our most recent deployment is Seychelles’ Travel Authorization system which has been live since September 2020. We have introduced the world’s first biometric API-PNR system in the Seychelles, meaning that officials can risk-assess and approve passengers based on a combination of self-declared information directly from the traveller and data obtained from the transport operators. This guarantees unparalleled knowledge about the passenger, crucially identifying inconsistencies between the data sets and establishing relationships between groups. Our system is the only turnkey comprehensive system in the world – meaning a government can give us a picture of a wanted individual and our system will identify that person, regardless of the travel documents being used.
As a result of our system, Seychelles has become the first country in Africa to introduce biometric capabilities at its borders. Visitors to Seychelles can now complete health processes by simply showing their unique QR code or their face on arrival.
Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from day-to-day users, both travellers and the government. The Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority has noted “a marked improvement in how passengers are processed when arriving in Seychelles” since our system was introduced. Similarly, the Public Health Authority described our system as “an important part of our strategy for reopening borders and is one of the measures for protecting Seychelles” while the Seychelles Tourism Ministry highlight how we have “removed the guesswork for [Seychelles’] visitors” and helped provide “a much better, customized service in the destination.”
What would you like to see in terms of technology and procedures moving forward with the airline industry, particularly with the regional market, to ensure we are all better prepared?
Travel needs to catch up with sectors like banking, commerce, or health. Digital is the future and while some parts of the industry have rushed ahead, others like border security, are generally lagging. What this does, however, is create a vastly different experience for travellers who may book tickets online or on their smartphone, and experience hi-tech security screening on departure but are still armed with paper form after paper form on arrival.
Travizory establishes a direct relationship between travellers and governments – transforming how the two interact. Airlines should no longer have to be the middleman, where security and passenger screening is shifted onto them. As it currently stands, the airline industry has been filling a void and is paying a huge cost of compliance year after year. This has skyrocketed with COVID-19 and is increasingly unsustainable.
No airline should be forced to provide passport information to governments via systems like API/PNR – governments should take responsibility for their travellers, obtaining pre-clearance information from the travellers directly. Airlines shouldn’t be the final line of defence, checking that travellers possess all necessary documentation for every destination that they fly to. For some large airlines, this can run into the hundreds – with airline staff expected to cross-check requirements that are changing daily, if not hourly.
We need a major shift in our way of thinking. Governments must put in place appropriate digital systems to collect and analyse security and health information and inform the traveller, and the airlines, about their eligibility to travel.
At Travizory we believe that one should be able to cross borders just by showing one’s face. Members of our team have previously worked with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection on their Travellers Verification Service, so we know it is feasible and highly beneficial. This vision is what keeps us super motivated, passionate, and excited. We’re working with the Seychelles and others to make this vision a reality and are committed to making this a reality for all countries and travellers, the world over.