Until relatively recently, facial recognition technology was a concept most commonly associated with science fiction. However, the technology has now advanced to the point where it is mainstream, compatible with smartphones, and used by social media sites. Another area where facial recognition is being introduced more frequently is the travel industry and in this article, you will find out about the ways it is helping to fundamentally transform tourism.

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What is Facial Recognition?

Facial recognition technology is a form of biometric artificial intelligence, which is able to identify an individual, or verify their identity, based on their face alone. The technology typically works by comparing a digital image or video frame to the faces in a database, matching up facial features and/or skin textures.

To date, facial recognition has been deployed in a range of fields. Facebook uses facial recognition to identify human faces within digital images, while Apple have a system called Face ID, which is used to authenticate the identity of the user, preventing unauthorised access. The technology is also used within security services and law enforcement.

Facial Recognition Within the Travel Industry

Facial recognition technology is also being explored and utilised more often in the travel industry. It can be especially useful here, because tourism companies have to deal with a huge number of travellers and customers, so any technology which can help to speed up processes is extremely beneficial.

In addition, within airports and hotels, security is a key concern and facial recognition can be used to more easily identify people, to grant specific people access to places, and to keep others out. Moreover, the ability to recognise faces almost instantly can also enhance the customer experience through greater personalisation.

4 Ways Facial Recognition Can Be Used in the Travel Industry

1. Personalisation

One of the most obvious ways the travel industry can make use of facial recognition technology is to improve personalisation for customers. By matching up faces in real-world environments to those on a database, hotels and other companies can identify people quickly and tailor services to those people.

Hotels, for example, can offer guests the option to provide a photograph of themselves during the booking process. When the camera at the hotel identifies their face upon arrival, hotel staff can then go and greet them by name and use the booking information to ensure they get a service that is more specific to them. It can also be used to identify guests who have stayed at the hotel before, allowing them to be rewarded for their repeat custom.

2. Security

Another way facial recognition can be of benefit to the travel industry is through increased security and there are a number of potential uses within this area. For instance, facial recognition can be used to verify the identity of a guest and grant them access to a hotel room, gym or other hotel facility.

Facial recognition can also be used to help to prevent crime, or identify troublesome guests or visitors. Using an internal database, the technology can quickly and accurately alert hotel staff to the presence of people with a history of bad behaviour, allowing them to be more easily removed from the premises or reported to police.

3. Data Analysis

For hotels and other businesses in the travel industry, data is playing a crucial role in allowing them to deliver excellent service and optimise their processes. This is an area where facial recognition technology is likely to play a more critical role in the next few years, allowing some data to be collected automatically.

Instead of simply matching faces in an image to faces in a database, the technology can also potentially be used to identify if someone is male or female, to provide an estimate of their age, and to establish their mood. This can then deliver reliable information about the demographics of customers and how they respond to different locations and services, with businesses then using this to pick out important trends.

4. Payments

Finally, one of the most exciting uses for facial recognition is in helping to authorise payments quickly and seamlessly. MasterCard have already began experimenting with a ‘selfie pay’ system, where payments can be confirmed using a smartphone camera, with the image being matched to one in a database.

Within hotels, this could be used to process payments upon check out, potentially without even needing to interact with a member of staff. The technology may also be deployed in other areas, such as in restaurants, while hotels, airlines and other tourism companies can also use it to identify loyalty scheme members and automatically apply discounts to their final payments, eliminating the need for loyalty cards or discount codes.

Examples of Facial Recognition in the Travel Industry

1# Facial Recognition Check-in in Marriott China

At two Marriott properties in China, guests have the option of arriving, going to a kiosk and using facial recognition technology to check-in quickly and effortlessly, without any need to queue or wait for a member of staff.


2# Airports Roll Out Facial Recognition Technology

Several airports have already adopted facial recognition technology, allowing tourists to prove their identity and board flights by briefly standing in front of a camera, removing the need for boarding passes.


3# Facial Recognition for Convenience and Personalisation

NEC’s NeoFace Express technology is being used for greater convenience, personalisation and security in a range of different settings within the tourism industry, and is especially useful in high-traffic environments.


What Are the Privacy Concerns?

While facial recognition technology can be of great benefit to the travel and tourism industry, it is important to be aware of the privacy concerns that surround it. Many people feel the technology – and collection of biometric data in general – is overly intrusive and some have concerns about companies collecting and storing so much data about them.

Aside from the basic feeing of companies knowing and collecting too much, there is also significant concern about data being shared with third parties, potentially without the express permission of customers. For these reasons, it is important that privacy is taken seriously and, where possible, customers are provided with the ability to opt out.

Facial recognition technology is being adopted in many different settings, and is especially useful in the travel industry for security, personalisation and convenience purposes. However, companies need to be aware of the privacy concerns and take action to reassure customers who are worried about how the data will be used.

More Innovating Technologies Within Travel

With technology continuously evolving, it should come as little surprise that its applications within the travel industry evolve too. In the following articles we piled up some more innovating technologies in today’s travel and tourism industry.

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