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A new Future for Global Aviation Saudi Arabia Style

Future Aviation Forum

Saudi Arabia without any question was able to take a lead in the global travel and tourism industry during the COVID crisis. The Kingdom became a centre of tourism development. As expected this was only the beginning of the world now witnessing to shift more global leadership in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has the money, and this seems to be the key. When the world needed rescue during the pandemic, Saudi Arabia answered the calls.

A country that can invest billions in the expansion of its travel, tourism and aviation industry, and is ready to invest in its international influence in this sector has all the advantages and potential to become the global superpower in this industry.

Turkish Airlines, Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways have already shown the world what can be done in shifting aviation hubs to Turkey, UAE and Qatar. With a giant like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it may only be a short time for airlines including Emirates to see some serious competition.

Today Saudi Arabia pushed itself into the front seat to shape the future of aviation.

Today Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has announced the Harmonising Air Travel policy, a framework that will make international travel simpler, easier and more enjoyable by removing the confusion over travel requirements currently discouraging millions of people from booking flights.

This policy framework was unveiled at the Kingdom’s inaugural Future Aviation Forum and will be formally presented at the 41st ICAO General Assembly later in 2022.

Designed in cooperation with the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the proposed framework will eradicate international travel confusion for passengers, carriers and governments by creating a single, clear, up-to-date online resource setting out requirements for entry to all participating countries.

What is Saudi Arabia announcing today?

  1. Saudi Arabia is launching a global initiative in the form of a policy White Paper, aimed at
    making the travel process simpler and easier for passengers, especially during
    public health emergencies
  2. The White Paper proposes the introduction of a universal framework to harmonize
    health information protocols, with the objective of limiting the impact of passenger
    traffic losses during health emergency situations through ensuring a more resilient
    system.
  3. The White Paper is the first of its kind that places passengers at the centre of the
    aviation policy objective
  4. The White Paper comprises four core pillars: 1) a harmonized reporting system for all
    countries, 2) communication systems for states and other stakeholders, 3) new
    governance and coordination mechanisms and 4) compliance mechanisms.

First of its kind + Putting the passenger first:

– no other aviation policy seeks to place air passengers at the center of its objectives. A simpler, more effective global system will promote trust and resilience

Ambitious:

– this policy aims to encourage collaboration between stakeholders across the aviation ecosystem in a way that has never been seen before

Future-oriented :

– This policy is borne out of the challenges we have witnessed with COVID. But it is not a COVID policy. It is a policy designed to support resilience in the global aviation response to any future health crises that may occur and simplify current health-related protocols for passengers.

Policy Context:


• External shocks have greatly impacted air transport services and subsequent economic growth. Covid-19 has severely impacted air traffic and passenger travel across the globe and, as a result, passenger traffic is not expected to return to pre-2019 levels until 2024, and air transport remains vulnerable to other future global health crises.

Policy Structure:


• The framework comprises the development of four core pillars designed to improve the
global response to future health emergencies in air transport:
1) a harmonized reporting system for all countries
2) communication systems for states and other stakeholders
3) new governance and coordination mechanisms
4) compliance mechanisms.

Estimated policy impact:


• The policy framework will help to limit the magnitude of lost traffic due to a health crisis by allowing states to rapidly exchange information on their evolving situations and through the implementation of the “safe flight” concept.
• In addition, it will help to increase the speed of recovery for passenger traffic following the development and rollout of appropriate treatments (such as vaccines).
• Based on an analysis conducted on the period March 2020 to December 2021, the policy’s expected beneficial economic impact (had it been enacted, in a base case scenario), was estimated at approximately USD 1.1 trillion.

Alignment to ongoing global work


• The objective of the policy initiative is not to build the materials and structures for the four proposed pillars from scratch, but to work closely with leading global aviation
stakeholders to build on the previous and current work of CAPSCA, ICAO, its Member
States, and regional bodies
• By proposing and leading the global efforts to establish such a framework to harmonise health requirements and ease of travel for passengers, this policy white paper illustrates the Kingdom’s commitment to supporting global efforts to enhance the resilience of the air transport sector in direct alignment with resolutions undertaken at the ICAO High-Level Conference on Covid-19.

Global research:

USA:
• A majority (56%) of Americans say that governments did not work well together to facilitate travel during the pandemic
• Only a third (36%) of Americans think the aviation industry is well-prepared for another public health crisis
• 1 in 3 (32%) Americans say confusion over health requirements will stop them from
booking a trip in 2022


GCC:
• More than two thirds (68%) of people in the Gulf chose not to travel in 2021 because of Covid-related requirements
• Nearly half (47%) of people in the Gulf say confusion over health requirements will stop them from travelling in 2022

Italy:
• Most people in Italy (61%) say they chose not to travel in 2021 due to Covid-related
travel requirements
• 40% of people in Italy say confusing health requirements will stop them from travelling this year


UK:
• Two thirds (65%) of Brits put off travel in 2021 due to Covid-related requirements
• Most people in the UK (70%) say that countries did NOT work together to make it easier for people to travel over the course of the pandemic
• More than two-thirds of people in the UK say the aviation industry is not well-prepared for another health crisis
• 40% of people in the UK say confusing health requirements will stop them from travelling this year.

Why has Saudi Arabia sponsored this white paper?


• Saudi Arabia, alongside all other countries across the world, was deeply affected by the impact of COVID. An opportunity exists for the Kingdom to lead a policy initiative that sets a structure to reduce the potential disruption caused by a crisis such as COVID in the future
• Saudi Arabia has already undertaken some leading work in this area from a practical
perspective, through work to integrate the Tawakkulna app with IATA’s global travel
pass. Accordingly, the experience will prove practical in the implementation of this policy.

What does Saudi Arabia have to gain by spearheading this initiative?


• This is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the Kingdom’s capabilities as a
coordinator in the aviation ecosystem, while also making a positive impact on all
countries (and specifically, passengers) across the globe
• This work can help to set the basis for Saudi Arabia to be active and legitimate
contributor to aviation policy in the years ahead.

What is Saudi Arabia doing differently than other international and national bodies to
harmonize global travel/How is the Harmonising Air Travel policy different to the G20
discussions?


• It is important to be clear that the Kingdom is not attempting to reinvent the wheel with this policy. Multiple leading aviation stakeholders such as ICAO, CAPSCA and IATA have led work that is highly relevant to this policy
• This policy proposal is unique in its attempt to align work already being done by the Member States and sector bodies within a coordinated and harmonised framework, that promotes collaboration
• Saudi Arabia takes note and welcomes the recent work undertaken by the 2022 G20
Health Working Group (HWG) relates to harmonizing global health protocols for safe
international travel. An opportunity exists for the HWG to work with our policy team to support the introduction and implementation of key recommendations into our framework.

What is the process post Future Aviation Forum for the policy to be ratified?


• The first goal is to raise the visibility of the policy white paper among the Member States at the Future Aviation Forum. The Kingdom is hopeful that the Member States will view the proposal in a favourable light, and be willing to support us in developing the policy
• The policy team will continue to build on the work already undertaken and will be grateful to receive feedback, comments, and criticisms from the Member States regarding the White Paper to help improve the quality and viability
• Following the Forum, the team intends to work towards the development of a Working Paper, in coordination with ICAO, other key aviation stakeholders, and the Member States
• The core goal is for the Working Paper to be discussed (and adopted) at the ICAO
General Assembly later this year

Are there barriers to adoption?


• This is an ambitious policy proposal that will require the buy-in and collaboration between a range of stakeholders within and external to the aviation sector, such as the health (WHO) sectors and tourism (UNWTO) sectors
• As a result, the most complex barrier to the policy will be achieving consensus on the
policy and commitment from across the Member States
• From a practical perspective, adoption may take place on a step-by-step basis in
alignment with the Member States in accordance with their ability to adapt the framework.

What if other member states refuse to participate in the process?


• This is an ambitious policy proposal that will require the buy-in and collaboration between a range of stakeholders within and external to the aviation sector.
• The most complex barrier to the policy will be achieving consensus on the policy and
commitment from across the Member States for its implementation.
• After extensive collaboration with experts in the field of aviation, the next step in the
The policy-making process is a broader consultation with fellow member states and key international organizations which includes listening to any concerns that may arise and proposing constructive solutions to make travel easier for passengers.
• Implementation may happen step by step, and also on a voluntary basis in case of
contentious elements.

Ensuring policy success


• The policy was written following extensive consultation with experts in the field of
aviation, so we know that the policy addresses the key issues.
• The team will continue working to bring the policy to implementation.
• Inclusivity is a core component of the policy-making process. Therefore, ensuring ample consultation with fellow member states from ICAO will be an important step.
• Universal adoption will be crucial to the success of this policy.

How is the Harmonising Air Travel concept different to other platforms?


• The Harmonising Air Travel policy white paper offers a framework and initiatives that will be developed based on alignment (and with the buy-in) of all the key authoritative aviation agencies, rather than just a few.
• Data and information on health requirements to travel and statistics shall be supplied
directly by the relevant public health authorities of all Member-States and thus the
the framework will be supplied with the most up-to-date and accurate information that is shared with all actors.

Which countries would be eligible for participation in the Harmonising Air Travel policy?


• All ICAO Member States would be eligible for participation in the Harmonising Air Travel policy.

How will the Harmonising Air Travel policy impact travellers, airlines and airports?


• Impact on travellers – more seamless travel due to easily
accessible, accurate and up-to-date health requirements to travel from
point of origin to point of arrival. Key aspects include:
o Safer travel and information protection for passengers and staff
o Less unpredictable and stressful travel experience
o A more personable experience
o Can offer passengers a guarantee to travel while checking in, with no unexpected
problems when arriving at the airport.
• Impact on airlines – access to straightforward and accurate information from passengers and the latest health requirements from health authorities in destination countries, ensuring greater safety for airline staff at airports and onboard aircraft
• Impact on airports – more organized and structured processes, streamlined end-to-end processes, transform operations so that operational costs are reduced, and a steadier flow of passengers in and out (fewer peaks and troughs in passenger volumes)

Who will fund this initiative?


• Saudi Arabia has taken the lead as the architect of the initial process, including the
development of the policy white paper
• Should the proposal receive an adequate level of buy-in from the Member States, it will be necessary to carefully determine how the proposed governance, coordination and technical functions of the framework should be funded to the point of implementation and beyond.
• Importantly, the fund will need strong governance, tight control, and transparency with regard to disbursements. A Steering Committee made up of contributing Member-States could be responsible for overseeing this fund.
• Further discussions will need to take place between the contributing members of the
Steering Committee to determine how the implementation of the initiatives will be
financed, and who will finance specific components.

Does this policy seek to replace initiatives that are already in place? For example, the
IATA Travel Pass.


• No, it does not seek to replace any existing national or industry-led initiative, framework or tool or to impose itself on any sovereign state or organization as obligatory to implement.
• The policy’s aim is to ensure that each existing initiative found at the national or regional level can be translated/converted seamlessly into the Harmonising Air Travel framework so that health requirement information can be accurately shared and coordinated with the rest of the world. The policy seeks to build on these initiatives.

Has WHO been involved in this policy?


• The WHO is a critical stakeholder in the successful implementation of the Harmonising Air Travel policy
• Representatives from WHO have been briefed on the policy and its context
• The intention is to continue working closely with WHO and other key organisations after the Forum to promote collaboration and coordination in terms of the policy
implementation.

How will the Harmonising Air Travel policy impact Governments?


• It is going to help governments communicate more effectively
what their regulations are, with added visibility and less work.
• By taking uncertainty out of the equations for travellers, it will help governments to retain and increase their air traffic.

Is this just about Covid? Isn’t this over?


• No, this policy is not just about Covid. It is easy, given the disruption of the past two
years, to assume that this policy is a direct response to Covid. However, this policy seeks to provide a solution that promotes simpler, easier and more enjoyable travel for future decades
• This policy will promote resilience within our industry to future shocks, helping us to better withstand and navigate future crises

How did you come to the figure of 1.1 trillion?


• Our team undertook a preliminary but detailed financial analysis focusing on the period March 2020 to December 2021, when COVID restrictions were most severe.
• Our analysis indicated that had the policy been enacted, the expected beneficial
economic impact, in a base case scenario, was estimated at approximately USD 1.1
trillion

Do you expect the new policy to result in more travel?


• This policy aims to build more resilience into the current system, to provide a simpler, easier and more enjoyable travel experience for passengers
• With such a structure in place, travellers that may have been discouraged from travelling by confusing, restrictions would be more likely to travel
• It is important to note that this policy seeks to build a framework for “normal” times and times of health emergencies. It will enable simpler travel under “normal” conditions, supporting the potential for more travel. In health emergency situations, resilience created by the policy will reduce losses in volumes to the extent that we have seen

Will the new policy also cover travel requirements for children?


• Yes, the policy will cover travel requirements for all passengers

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About the author

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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