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Thursday , August 11 2022

Digital innovation helps revive Kuwait travel, aviation sectors

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Platforms aim to make Kuwait one of safest airports globally

KUWAIT CITY, March 25: Hassan El-Houry, Group CEO of National Aviation Services (NAS), in an article for the World Economic Forum, notes that the reopening of air travel will depend on developing digital solutions to manage transparent testing and vaccine data. In Kuwait, three tech solutions that integrate different elements within the aviation ecosystem is being used. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in Kuwait has introduced KuwaitMosafer and Belsalamah as digital solutions that generate new streams to support decision making and passenger information strengthening infection control and building confidence. COVID-19 has hit tourism hard. According to the IATA, COVID-19 has decimated air connectivity and the economic benefits it generates. The airline industry is virtually grounded, and recovery has been challenging in most markets due to travel restrictions. The aviation industry is struck with unprecedented losses as international passengers traffic dropped by about 90% putting 46 million aviation-related jobs at risk.

Scene at Kuwait International Airport

The Kuwaiti aviation industry itself has suffered losses exceeding $1 billion. With the availability of vaccines, increasing innovation, and digital transformation, a gradual recovery is anticipated in the second half of the year. Greater use of data and digital technology ensures better management of the risk of transmission and coronavirus resurgence. “As everyone knows, digital advancements have helped us all around the world from the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” says Abdullah Aljaraisi, Emergency Management Coordinator at the Kuwait Directorate General of Civil Aviation. “Applications and websites have helped us stay on track with the process of people travelling and arriving in Kuwait. These applications lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission and spread social awareness.” Kuwait’s aviation sector is witnessing a successful public and private sector partnership in managing digital transformation.

Filipino domestic workers getting their details verified

DGCA and NAS have collaborated on providing digital strategies and solutions for the revival of Kuwait’s aviation sector.”NAS has developed three digital solutions, including Medical Utility Network Accreditor (MUNA), Kuwait Mosafer and BelSalamah. All three platforms are inter-linked and aim to make Kuwait one of the safest airports in the world,” says Mansour Al-Kheziem, General Manager, and NAS. Sharing his observations on the reopening of the travel industry in Kuwait, Al-Kheziem notes, “The travel industry has already reopened, albeit the progress has been slow. It is a fact that recovery of global air travel is closely tied to restoring stakeholder confidence which includes governments, passengers and airlines. In Kuwait, we are working closely with the Kuwait Ministry of Health (MOH), Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Central Agency for IT (CAIT), Ministry of Interior (MOI), other government agencies and national airlines to develop solutions to digitise health data and facilitate safe travel.”

The Kuwait DGCA recently announced that people arriving from 16 countries listed on MUNA should do their PCR tests in a lab included in MUNA. Medical Utility Network Accreditor (MUNA) is a patented blockchain technology that connects labs in more than 40 cities (all considered high risk) with direct flights to Kuwait. The MUNA network will soon include all passengers flying into the country. Linked to MUNA is KuwaitMosafer and BelSalamah, two groundbreaking digital platforms that help reduce infection risk and build new levels of operational responsiveness. KuwaitMosafer is a web platform for passengers travelling through Kuwait International Airport that provides contactless processes and shorter queues. BelSalamah is a web platform that facilitates the return of Article 20 domestic workers from high-risk countries directly to Kuwait. It is also the safest method with three PCR tests and a 14-day institutional quarantine.

Speaking of digital innovations introduced by Kuwait’s aviation sector, Abdullah Aljaraisi of DGCA says, “These applications and websites save time and money for government entities allowing them to focus on fighting this disease and stay committed to that focus. Finding a solution is something that everyone wants to be accomplished as soon as possible, so our life can go back to normal, which is the main aim of all the hard work being done by each official entity in the Government of Kuwait.” Commenting on public and private sector collaboration on facilitating travel in the pandemic, Mr Mansour Al-Kheziem says, “Kuwait is a great example of how PPP can drive development. Since the suspension of flights in Kuwait, NAS has been working closely with government entities to develop different solutions to facilitate travel leading to safer and simpler processes for passengers and efficient data capturing and verification for government bodies. Such collaborations will ensure the road to travel recovery is smoother as the airport opens up.”

BelSalamah is an instance of close public and private collaboration. With new visas being issued for Filipino domestic workers and Indian housemaids expected to follow suit, BelSalamah as a digital tool gains importance. “ NAS developed BelSalamah.com in cooperation with the Kuwait Directorate General for Civil Aviation (DGCA) and the Kuwait Ministry of Health to help facilitate the return of Article 20 workers back to Kuwait simply, direct and more cost-effectively,” says Mansour Al-Kheziem. Sponsors have to register online and provide a few basic details to book a package. The BelSalamah. com package costs KD 270 for those with valid residencies and KD 275 for those with new visas, making it easier for sponsors to fly their workers back.

The package includes accommodation for 14 days as per the Ministry of Health regulations, transportation, meals, and the three PCR tests. Airline fares vary according to the location, with chartered flights organised in cooperation with national and international carriers. By ensuring that workers who board the flight are COVID- 19 free, Besalamah.com helps protect the health of other passengers, airport staff and the Kuwaiti population. It also assists the fulfilment of COVID- 19 travel requirements with reduced waiting time and disruption. An online payment mechanism eliminates the possibility of any human trafficking by matching employers with the employee and confirming consent. BelSalamah is linked to KuwaitMosafer, a digital platform for all travellers departing from and arriving in Kuwait.

With KuwaitMosafer, passengers can book PCR appointments, upload PCR results, remotely sign government declarations, book services (such as lounges, baggage delivery, travel insurance) and report unsanitary conditions on the premises. They can also reduce waiting time in queues at check-in by organising time slots and counters. “The platform also integrates the Kuwait Ministry of Health vaccination data, so passengers generate a QR code (valid only for 10 mins) to share or view their records as required,” adds Mansour Al-Kheziem. “All Covid testing labs in Kuwait are connected through KuwaitMosafer to the Kuwait airport check-in process. This helps verify test certificates and instils confidence in airlines and other countries that passengers from Kuwait are Covid free on departure.” Technology and digital transformation will play an increasingly critical role in the revival of Kuwait’s travel sector by providing business intelligence and restoring passenger confidence. Apart from digital platforms like BelSalamah, KuwaitMosafer and MUNA, which allows passenger, airport operators and other stakeholders to minimise risk, data sharing between airlines and airports, government and other stakeholders will also help adapt to a challenging and fluid situation.

By Chaitali B Roy Special to the Arab Times

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