UNWTO Startup Competition

UNWTO Startup Competition:
National Tourism Startup Competition:
Invest in the development of Moroccan Tourism supported by SMIT


Category 1: Innovation in blue economies - Life below water
Nama social Hub

Category 2: Innovation in natural heritage - Life on Land Sub-category: Nature, trekking & hiking
Into The Wild

Category 2: Innovation in natural heritage - Life on Land Sub-category: Desert & Oasis Adventure
Terre Des Etoiles

Category 3: Innovation in cultural heritage - Preservation through cultural innovation
Machi Mouchkil

Category 4: Sustainable Urban Futures - Innovation in urban tourism
Pikala Bikes

We encourage Startups and Entrepreneurs from Morocco to present their ideas to innovate the Moroccan tourism sector for future generations and transform the sector into a digital one that is more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient.

Boost innovation! I want to invest in the Future of Moroccan Tourism!



The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), and the Moroccan Agency of Tourism Development Société Marocaine d’Ingénierie Touristique (SMIT), are joining forces in this national startup competition to source the most innovative and disruptive business models adapted to the tourism needs of future generations.

Morocco offers the ideal balance of dynamic landscapes, colorful architecture, and vibrant cities. These cities and regions increasingly need to generate new experiences for their inhabitants and for the tourists they receive annually while preserving their natural and cultural heritage.

This competition will source entrepreneurs that can offer new experiences and solutions for tourists in a more sustainable way. The call will identify and support those that contribute to the recovery and future of the tourism sector through the development of innovative tourism products. 

In 2019, Morocco received 12,9 million international tourist arrivals, accounting for half of the tourist arrivals in North Africa, and a total of 8,2 million dollars in international tourism receipts, with 25 million overnight stays. The Moroccan tourism sector is a very important source of jobs which counted for 565.000 jobs in 2019, counting for 7% of the GDP.

Morocco received 3,7 million international arrivals in 2021, more than 34% compared to 2020. So far, in the first six months of 2022, Morocco has received 4 times (+200%) as many international tourists as in the same six months of 2021, but 27% below the same months of 2019. In the month of June 2022, arrivals in Morocco were only 2,5% below 2019 levels, meaning they almost reached pre-pandemic values. These figures reflect a rapid recovery in Morocco’s inbound tourism.

By promoting connections among the actors that form part of the tourism entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem, the UNWTO aims to generate employment and business opportunities to recover Moroccan tourism.

To start your application, the startup must select one of the following categories:

Category 1: Innovation in blue economies – Life below water

Morocco is one of the world's top destinations for water sports (surfing and kitesurfing), capitalizing on the mythical spots of the Atlantic corridor. The offered experiences revolve around the discovery of water sports pleasures and are mainly declined in aquatic activities, such as surfing, kitesurfing, windsurfing, and relaxation activities such as yoga retreats by the sea.

In this category, we are looking for solutions that contribute to the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem.

Category 2: Innovation in natural heritage - Life on Land
Sub-category: Nature, trekking & hiking
Sub-category: Desert & Oasis Adventure

Morocco’s dynamic landscape offers mountains, oasis/palm groves, lakes, valleys, and natural parks, anchored in a transversal approach of sustainable tourism (e.g. sports and cultural activities, local population immersion, and ecolodges). The experiences related to this theme revolve around trekking/slowtrek, nature and discovery of wide-open spaces, exclusive stays/experiences in the heart of nature, new outdoor activities, mindfullness and yoga retreats.

In addition, Morocco offers authentic desert getaways, alongside the links of the value chain (guides/agencies, tours, non-glamping trendy accommodations, animation, etc.) to improve and enhance the experiences of road trips, rallies or trekking. The related experiences are mainly road-trips (including rallies & marathons), homestays in the desert, creating unforgettable and magical experiences in the desert.

Category 3: Innovation in cultural heritage - Preservation through cultural innovation

Morocco has a diverse and rich cultural heritage, with strengthened medinas, Berber earthen houses, kasbahs, but also a very rich gastronomy and a wonderful craft industry. We are looking for startups that can discover the potential of unexploited tourism products through the rehabilitation and the revaluation of material heritage (medinas, ksours and kasbahs) and new activities.

Category 4: Sustainable Urban Futures

To consolidate and complete the city-break offer with animation, festivity, culture, and outdoor activities of the Kingdom's main urban tourism destinations, we are looking for startups that present sustainable and SMART features that can assure Moroccan cities are accessible, resourceful and diverse.

25 November 2022
Launch in the Thematic Session of the UNWTO Executive Council
Deadline of the applications.

March 2023
Selection and announcement of the preselected candidates
April - June 2023 (tbc)
(2 days before the final event) Acceleration and Mentorships by experts in the field
April - June 2023 (tbc)
Tourism Tech Adventures Morocco Pitch of the finalists Round tables and Thematic Sessions
Personalized support for winning startups

The purpose of the competition is to capture the attention of a large number of startups, tour operators, and entrepreneurs from the Kingdom of Morocco from across the tourism value chain to facilitate the selection of those that are most relevant to the challenge we are addressing.

The business must offer an innovative solution that is legally based in Morocco.

In addition, the competition will require the following requirements to participate:

The projects must be aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations and preferably also allow for an introduction or adaptation of digital and technological elements, and focused on one (or several) of the following areas:

  • Be innovative/disruptive in nature providing value-added solutions;
  • Harnessing the impact of new technologies;
  • Alternative and complementary business models to harness the economic impact of tourism in destination(s);
  • Smart and innovative solutions for sustainable experiences;
  • Entrepreneur/promoter team: Suitability of the promoter team, motivation, and interest;
  • Startup in Seed Stage or Early Stage (have a minimum viable product or an idea that is ready to be developed and funded);
  • Emphasize the promotion of gender equity (and female empowerment), digitalization, environmental preservation, local communities, and youth leadership;

More information and the Terms of Reference.

  • Invitation of the winners to pitch at the UNWTO Tourism Tech Adventures Morocco (March – TBC);
  • Mentorship and pitch training by UNWTO and Partners;
  • Access to 90+ Venture Capitalists, Top Corporations, and 150+ Countries;
  • Become a Member of the UNWTO Innovation Network;
  • Scholarship opportunities for the Tourism Online Academy;
  • Access to acceleration programmes (TBC)

Ecosystem collaborators

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Plug and play
Le circle de L'innovation

About Innovation at UNWTO:

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) believes that innovation is the key to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. To drive the digitalization of tourism, create an Innovation and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem that will maximize the potential of the sector in terms of economic growth, job creation, and sustainable development, and anticipate, address and overcome the new challenges and trends of the tourism sector, in 2018 UNWTO developed a framework for Innovation, Education, Digital Transformation and Investments.

The IEI Department already launched 23 global, regional, and specific challenges, and 21 Tourism Tech Adventures (Innovation Forums) in 14 countries were held, with an additional 8 online editions. Total funding of 214 + USD million has been gathered for the UNWTO Top Startups


About the Société Marocaine d’Ingénierie Touristique (SMIT):

The Moroccan Agency for Tourism Development – SMIT is a government institution created in 2008 by the Moroccan government in order to implement the development strategy of the tourism product in Morocco. In order to make the Moroccan tourism product more attractive, SMIT provids support and assistance to investors and local communities through a range of actions and incentives. Capitalizing on its extensive knowledge of the Moroccan market and on its knowledge of the needs of development of each region, SMIT offers qualitative, tailored solutions to the development of natural and cultural assets, to promote the development of a unique product that stands out from the international offer.
Through the identification of the right concept for each destination, SMIT aims to shape the Moroccan tourism landscape, while extending the socio-economic advantages to each component of the industry's value chain and ensuring equity between territories.

Related links

Previous UNWTO startup competitions