UNWTO Startup Competition for Tourism Technologies and Solutions in Hotels and New Business Models

UNWTO Startup Competition for Tourism Technologies and Solutions in Hotels and New Business Models


Category 1
Hotel and New Business Technologies

Top 5:

Twistic | Spain

Category 2
Innovation and Sustainability

Top 5:

WeavAIR | Canada


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The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and Infecar, Feria de Gran Canaria, are once again joining forces to promote innovation, and to harness the immense potential of the tourism industry, reimagining the future of Hotels and New Business Models, by launching the UNWTO Startup Competition for Tourism Technologies and Solutions in Hotels and New Business Models.

In the ever-evolving landscape of hospitality management, the mission is clear—forge unforgettable guest experiences and cultivate welcoming environments where every guest feels valued, comfortable, and cared for. As guest demands become more intricate, hotels are turning to new ideas and to technology to seamlessly enhance guest experiences, improve operational efficiency, and provide personalized services.

Revealing the Challenge: In the spotlight, this year is the future of tourism in hotels and new business models. We invite you to be a pivotal part of redefining the landscape of Hotels and New Business Models. Our objective is to ignite a revolution in the tourism sector, steering it toward uncharted levels of intelligence, sustainability, and innovation. We invite startups from around the world to join us on this journey of transformation!

Picture a competition that assembles brilliant minds from across the globe, all with a shared commitment to rejuvenating the tourism industry. We are in search of pioneers, innovators, and visionaries who can provide ingenious solutions to the multifaceted challenges that confront this vital industry. The challenge is open to any startup worldwide, eager to revolutionize the tourism sector with innovative approaches related to Hotels and New Business Models.

Why This Challenge Matters: The global tourism industry is not only vast but also vital to economies worldwide, serving as an economic cornerstone for countless nations and generating over $1.5 trillion in export earnings in 2019 alone. Tourism is more than leisure; it's an economic lifeline. Within this dynamic sector innovation in hotels, rental platforms, and other new modern business models playing a pivotal role, involving the implementation of new and unique ideas, technologies, and practices to elevate the guest experience and enhance operational efficiency. From the integration of smart hotel rooms and mobile check-ins to immersive virtual reality experiences and sustainability initiatives, innovation is reshaping the very landscape of the hospitality industry.

Your Journey: The chosen finalists will have the unique opportunity to present their groundbreaking ideas in the stunning backdrop of Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain. Imagine breathtaking landscapes, a tapestry of rich cultural diversity, unique biodiversity, a climate boasting year-round perfection, gastronomic delights, and vibrant cities. The Canary Islands provide an exceptional stage for your brilliance to shine.

The world is watching, and the future of global tourism begins now. Are you ready to embrace the challenge? Join us and lead the way in the tourism revolution.

  1. Innovations in Digital Hospitality and Business Models: This comprehensive category explores pioneering technologies and strategies reshaping the digital landscape and operational efficiency of hotels and tourism-related businesses. From enhancing guest experiences through mobile apps, smart room technologies, digital infrastructure, and virtual concierge services to streamlining operations with advanced tools like revenue management systems, property management systems, housekeeping automation, and reservation platforms, participants are encouraged to present holistic solutions that seamlessly integrate technology for an elevated guest journey and enhanced operational excellence.

    In addition, this category also includes solutions designed for startups reimagining the traditional landscape of business models within the tourism and hospitality sector. Emphasizing creativity and originality, this category welcomes technological and non-technological innovations that bring novel approaches to how businesses operate and generate value. Whether it's redefining revenue streams, introducing innovative pricing structures, or proposing groundbreaking partnership models, this category encourages participants to challenge conventional norms and present fresh perspectives on sustainable and profitable business models.
  2. Sustainability Impact: This category is dedicated to startups championing holistic sustainability in the tourism and hotel industry. It encompasses a wide range of initiatives, from environmentally friendly practices and waste reduction to renewable energy solutions. Moreover, it welcomes innovative approaches for preserving resources and extends to areas such as sustainable gastronomy, community engagement, cultural preservation, and health and wellness enhancement. This category invites transformative ideas that contribute to the overall well-being of both the environment and the communities involved in tourism and hospitality.

These categories cover a broad spectrum of innovation in the tourism and hotel industry, providing a diverse range of opportunities for startups to participate and showcase their innovative solutions.

4 December 2023
Launch of the competition
29 January 2024
Deadline of the applications
31 January 2024
Announcement of finalists
18-19 February 2024
Acceleration and Mentorships by experts in the field
20 February 2024
Final Pitch at UNWTO Tourism Tech Adventure Canarias

The purpose of the competition is to capture particularly the attention of startups and entrepreneurs from across the tourism value chain to facilitate the offering of innovative and smart solutions related the complex challenges the hospitality sector is facing.
Startups are invited to participate if meeting the following criteria:

  • Are innovative/disruptive in nature and provide value-added and sustainable solutions for the hospitality sector
  • Harnessing the impact of new technologies especially within the context of blue and green economies,
  • Offer alternative and complementary business models to harness the economic impact of hotels and new business models,
  • Be scalable: to have potential for international growth and potential to be applied hotels or new business models,
  • Be an Early Stage or Series A or B startups
  • Have a minimum viable product or an idea that is ready to be developed and funded,
  • Have a tested pilot and business plan
  • Have a full-time team
  • Emphasize the promotion of digitalization, innovation in environmental preservation and impact on local communities,
  • All ways of innovation are welcome: new methods, processes, governance models, social impact initiatives, and technologies.

More information and the Terms of Reference.

  • Opportunity to Pitch your solution at the UNWTO 2nd Tourism Tech Adventures in Gran Canaria, Spain, within the framework of DigiON, on 19-20 February 2024.
  • Mentorships by UNWTO and top partners
  • Tailored support for your startup
  • Become a member of the UNWTO Innovation Network
  • Scholarship opportunities for the Tourism Online Academy

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



The Trade Fair Institution of the Canary Islands (INFECAR) is a meeting point for economic and promotion activities.
INFECAR is located in the city centre of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and it is extremely well-connected with the rest of the island. It also offers its clients a unique track record of experience as leaders in event organisation in the Canary Islands.

It is an active member of the Spanish Association of Trade Fairs (AFE), the Spanish Association of Conference Centres (APCE), the Gran Canaria Convention Bureau, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI), and the International Association of American Trade Fairs (AFIDA).

This emblematic venue offers pavilions, a conference centre with multi-purpose rooms, two large parking areas and landscaped gardens.

This combination of infrastructure and services enables professionals from all walks of life and parts of the world to make the most of this exceptional event venue for the organisation of trade fairs, conferences, work meetings or exhibitions in Las Palmas. Gran Canaria is a permanent bridge between Europe, America and Africa and has a consolidated reputation in the field of event organisation, thanks to its unbeatable climate, infrastructures and hotels, as well as the wide range of economic, social and cultural possibilities on offer.

Related links

Previous UNWTO startup competitions