Being dependent on travel demand, it is no surprise that the tourism and aviation sectors were hit the hardest due to Covid-19. The pandemic led to significant reductions in tourism activity globally. This is due to lockdowns, border closures, and other unprecedented measures put in place to safeguard nations worldwide. According to the new issue of the World Tourism Barometer from the United Nations specialised agency, international tourist arrivals have dropped by 65% during the first half of the year.
What does this abrupt and enormous decrease really mean?
These changes mean different things to different people. For the millions of travel enthusiasts that help spike the annual tourism statistics, this means that they will most likely not board a plane this year or get the chance to strike another destination off their checklist. To the millions making up the global tourism workforce, these changes bring about many uncertainties and compromises their occupations.
HIA is also one of the first airports in the world to successfully trial a holistic and contactless airport experience by combining passenger’s flight, passport and facial biometric information in a ‘single travel token’ at the self-check-in kiosk
To the aviation industry however, this sudden shift has translated to a set of complex challenges. Many airlines have already collapsed, others are on the brink due to financial difficulties, and airports are struggling to continue their operations.
As airlines, airports and their air transport sector partners continue to prepare for the industry’s recovery, a focus on innovation and investment in technologies will have an important role to play.
A global survey conducted as part of the Covid-19 Air Transport Near-Term Impacts and Scenarios report found that over the next two years 68.4% of respondents expect investment in digital transformation to increase; 60.3% expect investment in automation and the deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) technology to rise; and 54.2% expect spending to increase on sustainability and environmental initiatives.
Hamad International Airport (HIA) has been at the forefront and a major contributor to that end. HIA demonstrated a clear understanding of the impact the crisis had across all its operations and accelerated its digital transformation accordingly.
The airport introduced Smart Screening Helmets - wearable intelligent helmets that are portable, safe and effective in enabling contactless temperature measurement
Qatar’s airport has undertaken various unparalleled measures to ensure business continuity and the safe return of passengers to the skies. In this process, the airport helped rebuild many passengers’ trust in flying again by digitally transforming the airport experience.
The airport introduced Smart Screening Helmets - wearable intelligent helmets that are portable, safe and effective in enabling contactless temperature measurement. The helmet uses multiple advanced technologies such as infrared thermal imaging, artificial intelligence and AR (augmented reality) display. The airport also introduced UV disinfectant robots, which are fully autonomous mobile devices, emitting concentrated UV light. The robots are known to be effective in eliminating the majority of infectious microorganisms and are being
The airport introduced UV disinfectant robots
deployed in vulnerable high passenger flow areas to reduce the spread of pathogens.
HIA also enhanced its security measures with the addition of the latest security screening technology. The new C2 technology established a more efficient security screening protocol by allowing transferring passengers the freedom to keep electronic devices such as laptops, tablets, digital cameras, etc, in their hand luggage while going through security checkpoints. This helped reduce queuing times and possible cross-contamination among passenger carry-on bags while improving levels of customer service.
Qatar’s airport has undertaken various unparalleled measures to ensure business continuity and the safe return of passengers to the skies
HIA is also one of the first airports in the world to successfully trial a holistic and contactless airport experience by combining passenger’s flight, passport and facial biometric information in a ‘single travel token’ at the self-check-in kiosk. This digital identity record ultimately makes the passenger’s face their pass at key airport touchpoints, such as self-service bag-drop, pre-immigration and the self-boarding gate. This approach and early investment in biometric identification technology will prove to be an extremely efficient tool in HIA’s battle against Covid-19, allowing passengers to breeze through key touchpoints with minimal physical contact.
Even through these tough times, HIA continues to expand its terminal. This expansion is an important part of the success of the Qatar Airways Group, and the country’s preparations to host the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and beyond. HIA’s expansion plans are progressing as planned while strictly following the guidance provided by the Qatari government, as well as local and global health authorities, to safeguard the health and safety of workers and employees.
The airport has helped rebuild many passengers’ trust in flying again by digitally transforming the airport experience
The second phase of HIA’s expansion consists of Phases A and B. Phase A of the current expansion will comprise of the central concourse linking concourses D and E. The expansion will increase the airport’s capacity to more than 53mn passengers annually by 2022. Phase B, which will be completed after 2022, will extend concourses D and E to further enhance the airport’s capacity to more than 60mn passengers annually.
This expansion is part of a massive tourism infrastructure investment that will allow Qatar to handle more tourists in preparation for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and beyond. The fact that Qatar’s airport is still continuing this project in time of crises reinforces HIA’s position as a key player in restoring the tourism industry.
On the retail front, Qatar Duty Free (QDF) has also been evolving amid the pandemic with new brands being introduced and more in the pipeline. QDF recently opened a Hublot boutique at the airport, making it the first airport in the world to house a standalone Hublot boutique. All these efforts work in favour of restoring the confidence in travel and tourism in the most efficient and safe manner possible. Qatar’s airport is excited to present for the first time a range of the new retail and food & beverage concepts that the development of its duty free will embrace.
Covid-19 has forced all industries to accelerate their digital transformation strategies. Investments in innovation and technology such as touchless biometrics, self-service and apps will play a crucial role in the industry’s recovery. HIA’s pioneering efforts to revolutionise the airport experience with technology will ensure a safe, comfortable, and convenient environment for its travellers.