Benjamin Boesch is the Chief Digital Officer of VFS Global. He has over 15 years of experience in technology and digital transformation and manages the digital ventures, digitization initiatives, and e-commerce operations at VFS Global.
Technology has transformed the way we live. In the current context, with the heightened focus on health and safety, and personalized experience, technology has become crucial for travel. Once we overcome the present challenges, our ability to explore new destinations will be restored, leading to a revival of travel — this time in an era of digital transformation.
Increasingly, travelers will seek to build holiday experiences in the most contactless ways possible, and technology will continue to play a significant role in meeting their expectations.
One of the most remarkable and longest lasting effects of the ongoing pandemic has been on customer behavior. Even before global travel was halted, there was a discernible shift in how customers viewed any kind of service delivery, including travel or visa application processes. The pandemic has notably accelerated changes in the move towards online service delivery models — and these changes are here to stay. According to a survey by Kameleoon, 24% of consumers in France, Germany, Italy, the UK, and the US will increase long-term use of digital channels owing to Covid-19, and 73% expect brands to personalize their experience.
Digital tools are used far more comfortably across age groups and locations than ever before. Millennials have played a significant role in this paradigm shift, combining their love for travel with a passion for technology adoption. These changes have also been reflected in visa application processes, which has prompted companies like VFS Global, the world’s largest visa and consular service provider, to reimagine the customer journey.
Health and safety considerations have become the most critical factor for travelers in deciding where to travel and why. Booking and travel patterns have changed to mostly online, and customers are showing a greater willingness to opt for safe and convenient services. Be it document pre-checks or payments, remote submission of applications, doorstep visa services, or passport pick-up and drop services, the pandemic has heightened the need to add more convenience to the visa application process. Responding to these trends, VFS Global has significantly expanded its Visa At Your Doorstep service, allowing customers to submit their applications and enroll biometric data from the comfort of their homes or offices.
Technology will also play an important role in enabling solutions for effective and integrated partnerships between the private sector and border control, and to facilitate the resumption of leisure activities and events. Some of the innovations triggered and necessitated by Covid-19 are the International Air Transport Association’s Travel Pass, a digital passport with Covid test and vaccination details, the UK government’s NHS App, which proves your vaccine status, and France’s TousAntiCovid app, which houses its health pass. VFS Global has partnered with Singapore-based start-up Accredify to issue tamper-proof and verifiable health certificates for travel from Indonesia to Singapore and is looking to extend the model to other corridors.
Travel is a powerful economic driver. To ensure a safe post-pandemic restart, all industry stakeholders should shoulder this responsibility through embracing digitalization, meeting the safety and health needs of travelers, supporting local businesses and economies, and providing employment while protecting the environment in the best possible way. The commitment to innovate has the potential to provide a boost to all stakeholders in the travel industry.
“The Impact of Covid-19 on Consumer Digital Behavior.” Kameleoon. Kameleoon, 2021.