Inside sherpa°: Processing and organizing travel requirements data

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the travel experience with new pre-travel testing requirements, day-of-travel rules, and in-destination health measures now in place. Two years ago we began adding health-related data to our travel requirements database so that travelers and travel providers could remain up-to-date on constantly changing rules.  Since then, sherpa° has become a leading global provider of travel requirements and documentation for the travel industry. Here, we outline our processes for collecting and organizing a complex set of travel requirements from around the world.

So how do we do it?

We employ a combination of machine-based and human approaches to process changes to travel requirements as they emerge. Our Operations team is responsible for identifying, filtering, interpreting and acting on rule changes across every one of the world’s countries, ensuring our database is kept accurate and updated for our partners and users. Right now, we have 651 active country restrictions and 2,340 active procedures, such as forms, proof of vaccination, test requirements and quarantine.

Our first challenge is to identify and catalog a list of verifiable sources for every country in the world. Sources can be government websites, blogs, online media, or social media accounts. We categorize sources into three groups: Official sources, third-country sources and lead sources.

Sources

Official sources

These are our primary sources for travel requirements data for a given country. They usually consist of public health or foreign affairs authorities, such as the Center for Disease Control in the USA, the Italian Ministry of Health, or the Department of Foreign Affairs of Ireland. These are regarded as definitive sources of information in their respective countries.

Third-country sources

Sometimes it’s not possible to identify a usable official source for a particular country. In these instances, we rely on sources from third countries. An example of a third-country source is the website of an embassy operating in a foreign country. In many cases, third-country sources are very reliable, but we always seek out official sources wherever possible.

Lead sources

Lead sources are online properties or channels that alert us to changes to travel requirements affecting a given country. While we don’t rely on lead sources to update our database, they are useful for drawing attention to recent or upcoming changes. Lead sources are typically media reports, blog posts and social media posts that discuss changes to a country’s travel requirements. Our partner and user networks from around the world also submit updates through our platform for consideration by our team. These are particularly valuable lead sources for us. We use information from lead sources to verify that our data accurately reflects information from official or third-country sources.

Filtering and interpreting

An important feature of our product is how we present complex travel requirements clearly and consistently across diverse geographies, languages and contexts. In order to achieve this, our team must clearly understand the information that’s presented on our sources, identify what’s important and relevant for users, and translate that into a format that’s consistent with our platform and understandable for users.

It’s not unusual to have two reliable sources displaying conflicting information. In these cases, our team undertakes an investigation utilizing all available sources to determine what we believe to be true.

So that’s how it's done!

Sherpa° is a valuable tool for millions of travelers. In addition to providing information on health-related requirements, our travel documentation solutions help travelers to fully understand visa requirements for their trip. We’re fulfilling eVisa and eTA applications for travelers arriving in dozens of countries worldwide. As health-related travel requirements become more stable and standardized, we’ll remain focused on our mission to remove barriers from within the travel experience and to help people move freely and confidently across borders.

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