At the invitation of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya spoke to Ministers of Tourism at a “high-level forum on tourism and air transport for development”, held on 14 September 2015 during the UNWTO General Assembly in Medellin, Colombia.
Following the lead given by Dr. Taleb Rifai, UNWTO Secretary General, and Dr. Fang Liu, ICAO Secretary General, Dr. Mikuriya talked about Customs’ efforts in ensuring connectivity at borders for the movement of goods and people, thereby contributing to promoting tourism as part of economic competitiveness through streamlined procedures with a service-oriented culture.
Pointing out the mounting pressure on borders due to the growing volume of travellers, their complicated routes and the heightened security and illicit trade risks, he emphasized the need to adopt a risk management approach based on advance information on travellers, supported by the use of technology including Advance Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Record (PNR).
Greater use of technology would also keep travellers informed and ensure seamless flows at departure airports, with measures such as smart gates, pre-clearance and even self-processing before leaving home. At arrival airports, the introduction of a Trusted Traveller Programme would enhance risk management in parallel with other technologies, such as CCTV surveillance to observe passengers’ behaviour, while reducing direct contact with them, and the deployment of detector dogs to check baggage.
This ‘high-tech, low-touch” approach would require infrastructure, investment and collaboration with stakeholders at airports. Dr. Mikuriya concluded his remarks by inviting cooperation in the area of air passengers, along the same lines as the air cargo domain in which the WCO and the ICAO work closely together, involving other relevant parties from the private and public sectors, as embodied in the joint publication of the brochure “Moving Air Cargo Globally” in 2013.
The Chair of the forum, Mr. Richard Quest (CNN anchor), observed that Customs’ vision, so elegantly presented by the WCO, sometimes differed from the reality he encountered on the ground and asked whether this was because Ministers of Tourism were failing to lead the discussion. Dr. Mikuriya responded that his speech was an invitation for Ministers to talk to and collaborate with Customs. After another discussion on open-sky policies, Mr. Quest suggested that Ministers of Tourism should play a proactive role in setting government policy for more collaborative work.
Dr. Mikuriya took the opportunity of this meeting to talk about Customs efforts in ensuring connectivity at borders for the movement of goods and people, promoting tourism through streamlined procedures with a service-oriented culture.