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.

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,

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, Who Owns the
Customer? How About the Customers Themselves!

  • 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.

Learn more at Phocuswright Europe 2024

Join us in Barcelona for this session – Executive Panel: Digital Identity Is (Nearly) Here. Panelists include NeoKe founder Vikas Bhola; Annet Steenbergen, advisor to the EU Digital Identity Wallet Consortium; and Francois Blanc, managing director of Amadeus Traveler ID.

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