Blockchain in The Travel Visa Industry: Ready For Frictionless Travel?

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Every international traveler knows that travel is often synonymous with endless forms, applications to be submitted, and countless checkpoints. From visa paperwork to customs controls, from pre-boarding security checkpoints to hotel passport controls, how many times can the same information be checked? In a world of digital devices, AI, and facial recognition there must be a better way. Is blockchain going to change the done?

In this article, VisaHQ looks at how new technologies, such as blockchain and AI, coupled with mobile devices, promise to revolutionize travel identity credentials, which often fall by the wayside as travelers prepare for trips.

Can Blockchain Technology Help The Travelers?

Passports and visas are available in numerous formats and the current political climate isn’t making things simpler for applicants around the world. Many countries now require biometric data to be submitted in order to obtain visas. Furthermore, ETA and visas-on-arrival are increasingly common.

Terrorism has disrupted travel in many cities and regions worldwide. We see the alarming frequency of terrorist incidents, ultimately forcing airlines and travel companies to strengthen their crisis management and contingency planning strategies. Tighter security often means stronger border controls.

It bears noting, however, that e-passports have already eased border crossing challenges by enabling travelers to self-check themselves at e-gates, now located in airports across the globe.

Destinations requesting visas decreased from 75% in 1980 to 61% in 2015. Yet, getting a visa remains a reality for many passport holders needing to travel and is an absolute necessity in order to visit certain countries.


Map of visas required for chosen nationality by VisaHQ

Visas remain, for the most part, an expensive and time-consuming process for governments, corporations, and travelers. Although many countries are turning to e-visas to streamline the application and submission processes  (which saves at least 20% of the cost per visa), the majority of large, economic strongholds still use conventional, stamped visas.

In fact, visa processing is so labor intensive governments have outsourced the task visa to third-party companies, often based in India, where the workforce is paid less.

Visas are still a nightmare for Travelers

Many corporations have managed to achieve nearly perfect end-to-end management of their travel programs. Still, the visa process is frustrating for almost all travel managers.

Often an afterthought during travel booking, few corporations understand how to best obtain visas. Some outsource the process altogether, while others decide to control it internally. All, however, deal with red tape and roadblocks.

Could a distributed ledger technology be the solution to this complex nightmare? That is what an increasing number of government and industry players believe. The ledger distributed within a network includes linked blocks of data proving the identity of the travelers — the blockchain.

“What came out of our research is that border security is one of the highest pain points in the traveler journey,” says Liselotte de Maar, managing director of travel industry strategy for Accenture, the group’s professional services partner. “You’re standing in line, maybe you are going to a country you’ve been to multiple times, and you still need to do the same checks, everyone is asking you the same questions, etc.”

Self-Sovereign Identity

The concept is known as a “self-sovereign digital identity” because the traveler is the only person in control of his or her identity information. The traveler decides what to share when to share it and with whom.


Read the entire report by downloading the ebook.

Download the VisaHQ ebook on Blockchain in the Travel Visa Industry for free here

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