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The Role of AI in Improving Travel Safety During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Expert Analysis by Tabraiz Feham, Solutions Architect

The COVID-19 pandemic presented unprecedented challenges across all sectors, with the travel and hospitality industry being particularly hard-hit. As businesses scrambled to adapt to new safety requirements and changing traveller expectations, artificial intelligence (AI) emerged as a pivotal tool in navigating these tumultuous times. By integrating AI technologies, the travel sector was able to enhance safety measures, reduce human contact, and maintain smoother operations, thereby instilling greater confidence among travellers.

AI’s contributions during the pandemic went beyond mere automation, evolving into crucial systems for real-time decision-making and public health management. From crowd control in bustling airports to touchless interactions in hotels, AI technologies were deployed to minimize the risk of virus transmission. These advancements not only ensured compliance with health guidelines but also reshaped how safety is perceived and implemented within the travel industry. As we explore the various roles AI played in enhancing travel safety, it becomes clear that technology has not just been a stopgap measure but a transformational force, providing robust solutions that will likely continue to influence the industry well beyond the pandemic.


Joining us to discuss this topic is Tabraiz Feham — an award-winning technology leader who specialises in travel technology, machine learning, big data analytics and DevOps in addition to having more than 15 years experience in commercial web solution design and development. With his unique background, Tabraiz can provide us with valuable insights into the use of AI for improving travel safety during COVID-19; a topic that clearly falls within his area of expertise. In this article, we will take a closer look at how AI has been successful in making travel safe and the innovations likely to have an impact on the industry’s future.

AI-Enabled Crowd Management Systems

During the COVID-19 pandemic, managing crowd density became crucial in preventing the spread of the virus, especially in high-traffic public spaces such as airports, train stations, and tourist destinations. AI-enabled crowd management systems played a pivotal role in monitoring and controlling the flow of people to ensure adherence to social distancing guidelines and minimize health risks.

AI technologies were employed through sophisticated surveillance systems integrated with advanced algorithms capable of analysing video footage in real time. These systems could accurately count the number of people in a given area and analyse movement patterns to identify potential congestion points. By leveraging these insights, authorities and venue managers could take proactive measures to prevent overcrowding. For example, AI-driven systems could trigger automatic alerts when a certain area neared its capacity limit, enabling quick response to divert the flow of people or close off access temporarily.

The backbone of these AI systems involved a combination of technologies including computer vision, machine learning, and predictive analytics. Computer vision allowed the systems to ‘see’ and ‘understand’ the physical space, while machine learning algorithms learned from historical data to predict potential overcrowding scenarios. Predictive analytics further enhanced these capabilities by forecasting peak times and suggesting optimal crowd distribution strategies.

Moreover, some systems utilized heat maps generated from real-time data to provide visual insights into crowd densities. These maps were instrumental for operational teams, helping them to quickly identify and address areas where social distancing could not be maintained. This not only helped in ensuring safety but also in maintaining public confidence in travel, crucial for the recovery of the industry.

By implementing these AI-enabled crowd management systems, travel hubs and tourist destinations could not only comply with health regulations but also enhance the overall safety and efficiency of operations. These technologies demonstrated their potential not just as emergency responses but as part of a new standard for managing public spaces, suggesting a sustained role in future travel safety protocols.

Touchless Technology for Safe Interactions

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, minimizing physical contact in public spaces became a critical component of health and safety protocols. AI played a transformative role in enabling touchless interactions within travel settings, thereby reducing the risk of viral transmission through surfaces and close human contact. These AI-driven solutions not only provided necessary safety measures but also enhanced the convenience and speed of travel-related processes.

AI-Enabled Kiosks for Check-ins

One of the standout applications of AI in facilitating touchless interactions has been through AI-enabled kiosks. These kiosks use machine learning algorithms to streamline the check-in process at hotels, airports, and other travel hubs. Travelers can complete their check-ins, select seats, and handle luggage tags without having to physically interact with staff or touch shared surfaces. Some of these kiosks are equipped with gesture recognition technology, allowing users to navigate menus and input information via hand gestures, further reducing the need for physical contact.

Voice-Controlled Systems for Information Retrieval

Voice-controlled systems have also seen significant adoption in travel settings as part of the movement towards touchless technology. These systems use natural language processing, a branch of AI, to understand and respond to user queries. Travelers can obtain real-time information about flight statuses, gate changes, and other relevant details simply by speaking to AI-powered assistants. This capability not only reduces the need to touch shared surfaces like information screens but also streamlines the flow of information, making travel experiences smoother and less stressful.

Facial Recognition Systems for Identity Verification and Boarding

Facial recognition technology has been another critical AI application in reducing touchpoints. Used for identity verification at checkpoints and boarding gates, this technology speeds up the process while ensuring robust security measures. At boarding gates, for instance, passengers can be processed without having to hand over boarding passes or personal identification documents, simply by having their faces scanned. This system not only reduces contact but also minimizes queues, thereby helping maintain social distancing protocols.

The deployment of these touchless technologies has not only addressed immediate health concerns but also set a new standard in how we think about interaction within travel environments. By leveraging AI, the travel industry has been able to offer safer, faster, and more user-friendly processes that meet the needs of the modern traveller while prioritizing public health. As we move forward, these innovations are likely to persist beyond the pandemic, shaping the future of travel with a focus on hygiene and efficiency.

Health Monitoring and Contact Tracing with AI

During the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining public health in travel settings required innovative solutions to monitor health conditions and track virus spread among travellers efficiently. Artificial Intelligence (AI) emerged as a key technology in addressing these challenges, with applications ranging from thermal scanning to contact tracing, all designed to enhance safety and ensure timely interventions.

Thermal Scanning Systems at Transport Hubs

AI-enhanced thermal scanning systems became a common sight at the entry points of airports, train stations, and other transport hubs. These systems utilized thermal cameras combined with AI algorithms to rapidly and non-invasively measure the body temperature of passing individuals. AI played a crucial role in these systems by interpreting thermal data to quickly identify individuals with elevated temperatures, a potential indicator of infection. The AI could distinguish between natural body temperature fluctuations and genuine fever symptoms, reducing false positives and ensuring that only those genuinely at risk were subject to further medical evaluation.

AI-Driven Contact Tracing Apps and Systems

Contact tracing was another critical area where AI contributed significantly. AI-driven contact tracing apps and systems were developed to track interactions between individuals in travel settings, such as flights or public transportation, where close contact with others is common. These apps utilized data from mobile devices, employing algorithms to detect proximity events that could represent a risk of infection transmission. If an individual tested positive for the virus, the system could quickly trace and notify those who had been in close contact with them, advising them to isolate or get tested. This rapid response was vital in containing outbreaks and minimizing spread, particularly in the densely populated environments typical of travel settings.

These AI-driven systems not only automated what would have been a labour-intensive process but also enhanced the accuracy and efficiency of public health responses. Privacy concerns were addressed through various safeguards, such as anonymizing data and ensuring that the use of personal information strictly adhered to health monitoring purposes, with clear regulations on data storage and deletion.

The integration of AI into health monitoring and contact tracing represents a profound shift in how travel industries manage public health threats. These technologies not only provided essential tools during the pandemic but also set a precedent for how AI can be leveraged in future health crises to safeguard public health while maintaining the continuity of travel and commerce.

AI in Cleaning and Sanitization Protocols

The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the critical importance of stringent cleaning and sanitization protocols, particularly in the travel industry where high traffic and close quarters are common. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has played a transformative role in enhancing these protocols, bringing both innovation and efficiency to the maintenance of hygiene in hotels, transport vehicles, and public spaces.

AI-Driven Robotic Disinfection

One of the most visible applications of AI in sanitization has been the deployment of robotic systems designed to disinfect rooms and public areas. These robots, equipped with UV lights, sprayers, or other disinfecting technologies, can navigate through spaces autonomously, ensuring thorough sanitization without the need for human intervention. The AI within these robots allows them to map their environment, plan optimal cleaning routes, and avoid obstacles, thereby maximizing area coverage and disinfection efficacy. For instance, in airports and train stations, these robots can be scheduled during off-peak hours to carry out deep cleaning without disrupting the flow of passengers.

AI Systems for Optimized Cleaning Schedules

Beyond robotic cleaners, AI systems have been crucial in scheduling and tracking cleaning operations. By analysing data on area usage patterns—such as peak times in hotel lobbies or the turnover rates of airline seats—AI algorithms can predict the best times for cleaning interventions, thus optimizing the deployment of cleaning crews. This approach ensures that high-touch areas are cleaned more frequently and efficiently, reducing the risk of virus transmission. Furthermore, some AI systems provide real-time monitoring and reporting of cleaning activities, allowing facility managers to verify that protocols are followed correctly and consistently.

Integration with Other Technologies

AI’s role in cleaning and sanitization often works hand in hand with other technologies. For example, sensor-based systems in hotels can notify management when a room has been vacated, triggering an AI system to dispatch a cleaning robot to the room. This integration not only improves the speed and frequency of cleaning but also supports a more dynamic and responsive approach to maintaining hygiene standards.

The implementation of AI in cleaning and sanitization protocols not only increased the effectiveness of these measures during the pandemic but also set new standards for operational hygiene in the travel industry. By leveraging AI, travel businesses have been able to assure guests and staff of their safety, thereby helping to restore confidence in travel amid ongoing health concerns. As we look to the future, these AI-enhanced protocols represent a significant advancement in the industry’s approach to public health and safety.

Information Dissemination and Traveller Education

Effective communication and education have been pivotal during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in keeping travellers informed about rapidly changing health and safety guidelines. AI has significantly enhanced the capabilities of the travel industry in this regard, ensuring that travellers receive timely, accurate, and personalized information.

AI-Powered Chatbots for Real-Time Communication

AI-powered chatbots have become a frontline tool for information dissemination within the travel industry. These chatbots are integrated into travel company websites and mobile apps, providing instant responses to inquiries. They are equipped with natural language processing (NLP) capabilities, allowing them to understand and respond to a wide range of questions from travellers. During the pandemic, these chatbots were frequently updated with the latest COVID-19 safety protocols, travel restrictions, and testing requirements, ensuring that travellers could access vital information 24/7. For instance, if a traveller needed information about the quarantine rules in a particular destination, the chatbot could provide the most current guidelines based on the latest public health advice.

Personalized Travel Advisories

Beyond providing general information, AI systems have been used to personalize travel advisories based on a traveller’s specific itinerary and the current health regulations of both the origin and destination. This personalized approach is crucial in managing the complexities of travel during a pandemic, where regulations may vary significantly between different locations and change frequently. AI algorithms analyses the itinerary details submitted by the traveller and cross-reference this data with an up-to-date database of global health regulations to generate tailored advice, including whether travel is advisable, what precautions should be taken, and what the traveller can expect upon arrival.

Integration with Mobile Apps and Notification Systems

Many travel companies have integrated these AI functionalities into their mobile apps, where AI systems not only provide information but also send real-time notifications about any changes relevant to a traveller’s upcoming trips. For example, if a new travel ban is implemented or if health regulations change at a destination, the AI system can immediately alert travellers who might be affected, allowing them to make necessary adjustments to their plans.

The role of AI in information dissemination and traveller education has not only facilitated safer travel during the pandemic but also enhanced the overall traveller experience by providing a seamless, responsive, and highly personalized communication channel. As the travel industry continues to navigate the challenges of the pandemic and beyond, AI-driven tools will remain essential in keeping travellers informed and prepared, reinforcing the industry’s commitment to safety and customer service.


The revolution of artificial intelligence implementations in the sphere of travel throughout the time of the COVID-19 pandemic has been pointedly transformational— notably to increase measures of travel safety. There are definitely AI-enabled crowd systems and contactless technology and also sophisticated health surveillance and effective hygienic protocols; therefore, undoubtedly AI has been very important in adjusting the travel practices so as to satisfy new high safety requirements. In addition, the ability of AI to provide personalized travel advisories with timely information has helped a lot in keeping travelers informed and ready. These solutions — not only addressing immediate challenges due to the pandemic, but setting a new standard (safety plus efficiency) that clearly demonstrates AI’s potential for industry revolution in lasting ways.

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