The travel industry falls back on innovative tech solutions to cope with the fallout of Covid-19
By Ritu Agarwal
Even as India and the world increase the pace of vaccination, there are global fears of yet another wave. However, we do see more and more people wanting to travel and get away from the stress. At the same time, travellers seek assurance that their health will not be compromised. The primary concern is safety. For the sector it is thus vital to follow guidelines, and prepare to welcome visitors by assuring contactless yet seamless experiences that will revive the tourism industry.
In this effort, integrated technology-driven solutions are going to play a crucial role. Some key developments towards this end include:
Current situation for travel to India
Tourists are not yet permitted. Only Indian nationals, those moving to the country as residents, and those from certain countries who qualify for visas other than tourist visas may enter. Regarding the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, it is even more restricted – only diplomats and those listed in a government memorandum may enter. However, visa holders from the European Union, Africa and South America may enter – as long as it is not on a tourist visa. It is not yet known when visas for India will be usable again to travel to the country. It is also not possible to travel to India by land. Holders of an OCI card (Overseas Citizen of India) or a PIO card (Person of Indian Origin) can generally travel to India (without a visa).
(Information source: MEA website)
IATA Travel Pass App
To reopen borders without quarantine and restart international flights, governments need to be sure they are effectively mitigating the risk of importing Covid-19. This means having accurate information on passengers’ pandemic health status.
Informing passengers about tests, vaccines and other measures they require prior to travel, details on where they can get tested and provision of the facility to share the test and vaccination reports in a verifiable, safe and privacy-protecting manner is the key to ensuring governments’ confidence in opening borders.
To address this challenge, International Air Transport Association (IATA) has launched the IATA Travel Pass App. Through the IATA Travel Pass, information can be shared with border authorities regarding testing or proof of vaccination. A critical aspect is that the information supplied is verified. It is a secure means to manage health requirements, and far more efficient than document processes.
With this app, IATA also aims to make governments confident about reopening borders without imposing quarantine on incoming travellers.
- The IATA Travel Pass will encompass:
- Global registry of health requirements – to find accurate information on travel, testing and vaccine requirements for journeys.
- Global registry of testing/vaccination centres – to identify testing centres and labs at departure locations which meet the standards for testing and vaccination requirements at the destination.
- Lab app – to locate authorised labs and test centres to securely share test and vaccination certificates.
- Digital passport module – to enable passengers to create a ‘digital passport’, receive test and vaccination certificates and verify that they are sufficient for the itinerary, and share testing or vaccination certificates with airlines and authorities to facilitate travel. This app can also be used by travellers to manage travel documentation digitally and seamlessly throughout the journey, improving the travel experience.
- (Information source: IATA)
Tourism app for Andhra Pradesh
Various state tourism boards in India are beginning to think out-of-the-box to drive solutions for putting the sector back on its feet. The Andhra Pradesh government has announced recently that it is launching a mobile app for facilitating tourism activities. The dedicated mobile application will provide information on destinations, hotels and packages related to the state.
They have also proposed establishing of luxury five- and seven-star hotels across 13 districts to boost the tourism and hospitality sector through public-private partnership. The Oberoi Group has already come forward to set up hotels in Visakhapatnam and the very popular destination of Tirupati.
Rajasthan Tourism increasing reach through collaborations
The state of Rajasthan has a rich cultural heritage of beautiful palaces, forts, memorials, museums, and vibrant and colourful art and craft along with majestic desert and rocky landscapes and also forests. All this makes Rajasthan or the Land of Royals one of the most famous tourist destinations in the world.
Rajasthan Tourism has tied up with UNESCO to unleash the potential of the state’s hidden cultural heritage. The project “Promoting Intangible Cultural Heritage of Rajasthan” will cover the less frequented Jodhpur, Barmer, Jaisalmer and Bikaner districts of Western Rajasthan.
It will develop and preserve the intangible cultural heritage like the songs of Langas, Manganiyars, Mirs and Bhopas, Kalbelia and Gair dances, eclectic pottery, textile, durry making and appliqué work strewn across the villages in the districts of Jodhpur, Barmer, Jaisalmer and Bikaner that can be leveraged to create a win-win situation, both for the tourism sector in new product development and benefitting rural artist communities while safeguarding the art forms.
While tourism is an important source of revenue in Rajasthan, given its numerous palaces, forts, and museums, the average tourist usually spends only one or two days in the state. The project aims to identify appropriate intangible cultural heritage practices which are unique to the state and add an extra day to the stay in Rajasthan of each tourist.
Five must-have apps for travel in India
India’s contact tracing app, it is mandatory for all travellers entering India to download it on their mobile devices.
An innovative app by the Ministry of Tourism, it is an information hub for popular sightseeing places, restaurants, certified hotels and various experiences that India offers. The app can also be used to find important facts about cities and landmarks in the country.
IRCTC Rail Connect
This is one of the most used travel apps in India. Used for online rail ticket booking, checking PNR status, train routes and seat availability.
Indian Police at Your Call
The Indian Police at Your Call app is a GIS map-based interface for citizens to locate police stations near their current location in case of emergency. The app displays the current location of the citizen on the map along with details such as names of places, roads and major landmarks. The app dynamically fetches details of all the police stations near the location of the citizen and can be refreshed at regular intervals. It further provides the facility to “tap” any of these police stations and know the route and distance to it. Contact numbers of the police station, District Control Room and office of the Superintendent of Police are also displayed.
The official audio tour partner of the Ministry of Tourism, AudioCompass is a free iOS and Android app that helps bring stories of India to a traveller by turning smartphones into personal tour guides.
Along with this, Rajasthan has tied up with Incredible India to promote tourism following the Covid-19 havoc. This is a one-of-a-kind collaboration that seeks to promote a state on a large scale and reach out to the maximum people. This collaboration will see Incredible India conferring special focus on the rich heritage and hospitality of Rajasthan which make it so fascinating for travellers from across the world.
The tourism department has also tied up with Skyline Services for special helicopter services. In the first phase, the rides will function on the Kumbhalgarh and Nathdwara route. Depending on its success, the government will look to launch similar services between Udaipur and Rajsamand.
Global Pravasi Rishta portal and app
The External Affairs Ministry has launched the Global Pravasi Rishta portal and app to connect with the nearly 3.12-crore Indian diaspora across the world. The portal enables communication with the diaspora on a real-time basis and will have the ability to issue emergency alerts and advisories. It will also enable the diaspora to reach the consular officers and services in emergencies.
The portal https://pravasirishta.gov.in will not only contain useful information for the diaspora such as information about visas, passports, and other consular services but will also provide information about various events organised by the missions and send invites to the diaspora members for greater participation.
In addition to facilitating the Indian government’s connecting with the overseas Indian community, the portal will also be connecting them to many government schemes – new as well as existing – that might be useful for them.
(The author is former Editor,
India Today Travel Plus Magazine)