Travel Innovation and Technology Trends 2024

Who should own the customer?

This is a preview of the full report Who Owns the Customer? How About the Customers Themselves!

For decades, a debate has raged in the travel industry on the subject of “who owns the customer?”. But what exactly does “owning the customer” mean? In essence, it comes down to profiles and preferences. The suppliers and intermediaries that can collect (and therefore “own”) the most data related to user intent and preferences can offer the most personalized services to travelers, laying a foundation for long-term relationships and customer loyalty. 

But what if rather than a supplier or intermediary owning the customer profile, travelers themselves controlled their own personal information, choosing which suppliers and intermediaries to share specific details with? Enter the concept of self-sovereign identity (SSI), first introduced to the Phocuswright audience in the 2022 article: Self-Sovereign Identity: Unlocking Seamless Travel. SSI enables consumers to manage their personal information behind a verified digital ID and distribute trusted information to the sellers of their choice. 

SSI emerged in 2015 and has gained limited momentum in the travel industry over the last few years, but it is hardly a universal trend that all have embraced. Simultaneously, biometrics are increasingly being paired with digital profiles to physically verify identity, primarily in the form of facial recognition. Throughout the travel journey, these two technologies can work in tandem to remove friction from the travel process.  

SSI enables consumers to manage their personal information behind a verified digital ID and distribute trusted information to the sellers of their choice. 

The full report includes:

  • The foundational technologies required for SSI and verifiable digital identity
  • A breakdown of the SSI ecoystem
  • Governance frameworks
  • Utilizing SSI to create a connected, frictionless trip
  • Digital ID use cases in travel
  • The future role of digital identity in travel

What Will Drive the Acceptance of Digital Identity?

Digital identity acceptance will likely be driven by a combination of governments and private industry. The concept goes far beyond the simple digitization of a document such as a license or a passport. A full, inter-operational digital ID ecosystem will be required to truly reap the benefits of frictionless travel. The first step is to enable a new type of mobile digital wallet, referred to as a mobile software wallet.

There is some evidence that the travel industry may move to use NFTs (non-fungible, blockchain-based tokens that represent a unique asset) to denote tickets or hotel reservations. In addition to identity, mobile software wallets must be capable of securely storing various valuable objects (e.g. reservations, tickets, passes, vouchers, loyalty points, policies). Mobile software wallets’ potential for success and mainstream adoption is directly correlated to their ability to execute on these parameters: This is a crucial differentiator from existing mobile operating system Wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Pay. 

Beyond mobile software wallets, additional components are required for the industry to fully embrace SSI and verifiable digital identity.

Digital ID use cases in travel 

The full use case analyses live in the full report; get the research report here.

  • SITA/Aruba
  • Neoke
  • Clear
  • IATA
  • Travlr ID

The role of a robust, flexible, verifiable digital identity is at the heart of automating and personalizing the travel process in the future and creating the “connected trip.” The rapidly rising importance of artificial intelligence (AI) will also play a role in the way digital identity is accessed and preferences are used. AI will impact the way information is collected and monitored as well as enable more automated bookings. 


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