The Effect of International Travel’s Rebound on Passport Issuance and Border Control Infrastructure

Subscribe To Download This Insight

2Q 2023 | IN-6902

International travel volumes rebounded strongly in 2022 and will continue to rise in 2023 to near pre-pandemic levels. Passport demand is correlated, barring implications for issuers. International travel increases also place emphasis on border control systems to be able to efficiently and securely manage growing numbers of citizens crossing borders.

Registered users can unlock up to five pieces of premium content each month.

Log in or register to unlock this Insight.


International Travel Is Back in Full Swing


The year 2020 saw international travel grind to a halt in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Traveler volumes sharply decreased to a figure in the region of a third compared to the year before, marking it the worst year in history for tourism-related industries. As limitations began to end regarding citizen movement abroad, international travel started to pick back up. The year 2022 saw a considerable bounce back, landing approximately at twice that of 2021’s volume. By 2023’s end, as the vast majority of restrictions cease—notably including China’s COVID-19 measures ending early in the year—the volume of international travel is expected to return to near pre-pandemic levels.

Passport Demand and Border Control Infrastructure Upgrades


ABI Research has documented the slowdown of passport demand during the COVID-19 era, being, of course, correlated to people’s ability to travel abroad. Global passport shipments hit a low of 92.5 million in 2020—the lowest annual shipment volume in decades. After growth over the following 2 years, 2023 will mark the first year that shipment figures eclipse that of before the pandemic, at 200.6 million units. In a difficult economic climate, with cost increases across the board and persistent chip sourcing problems, Identity (ID) issuance to serve this demand for renewing passports reemerges for those wishing to travel, presenting a serious challenge for vendors. Increasing capacity and securing limited chip allocation will remain top of mind for ID document vendors.

Moreover, the return of international travel has played a role in the need for appropriate border control infrastructure in airports. As travel volume increases, greater numbers of travelers must be able to be handled in a secure and efficient manner. Automated Border Control (ABC) systems, including eGates and kiosks, are the answer to handling this increase. ABC systems allow for quicker clearing processes of citizens and do so securely, so they are a necessary investment to make in response to growing traveler congestion. As well as providing a solution capable of easing what is now an ever-growing flow of international travel, ABC systems modernize traveler experience and increase security, providing benefits aside from simply being capable of handling the high throughput of travelers. Considering the growth of international travel, particularly with the post-COVID-19 spike, as appetites for vacationing resumes, alongside benefits of security, user experience, and automation, the market for ABC systems is seeing significant growth. It is expected that the volume of international travel yearly will only continue to grow, further emphasizing the need to adopt modern border control infrastructure.

Investing in ABC Systems Is Necessary; Passport Volumes Requires Close Attention


Border control stakeholders, including decision makers within airports themselves, should acknowledge the necessary investment of automated and speedy systems to clear citizens, as traveler numbers continue to increase. Furthermore, a sound eGate implementation acts as a differentiator of customer experience and yields monetization benefits, such as allowing more time to be spent in the airport’s retail and hospitality area. Considering this, alongside the multitude of benefits from such systems, it is clear that a forward-facing view should be held, and preparations and investments should be made sooner rather than later to accommodate increasing traveler volumes and general modernization. On the flipside of the coin with respect to growing travel, ID document vendors have, and should continue to monitor passport demand as it continues to increase going into 2023. Efforts should be made to increase passport production capacity, managing demand expectations and chip sourcing from multiple suppliers.