UNWTO Awake Tourism Challenge

UNWTO Awake Tourism Challenge

A global call for entrepreneurs working to accelerate sustainability.



Green and blue economies:
Coastruction  | Netherlands
noytrall | Portugal
SmArt for Sustainability | Panama

Local community involvement:
Quantum Temple | United States
socialbnb | Germany

Tourism Education:
Instituto de Accesibilidad | Spain
Kamatjona | Namibia
Baahdy & Birdy | Norway

Ecological and Sustainable Capital Creation:
WeavAir | Singapore
r3charge | Germany

Women Empowerment:
Impact Innovations Institute (Safe YOU) | Armenia
NomadHer | South Korea

Tourism Tech for Good:
Murmuration | France
Evelity by Okeenea Digital | France
Accessible Qatar | Qatar


Green and blue economies:
Viatu Travel - Switzerland
Weeva - United Kingdom

Local community involvement:
It's July | Israel
Tuzmo | United States
Astrostays | India

Tourism Education:
Fifty Shades Greener | Ireland (Republic of)
RISE Travel Institute | United States

Ecological and Sustainable Capital Creation:
Trees4Travel Ltd | United Kingdom
Lid Vizion | United States
Salva | Colombia/Costa Rica/United States

Women Empowerment:
Womxn For Wild | South Africa
GirlsRunPeriod | Canada
Greether | United States

Tourism Tech for Good:
Hotelverse | Spain
Travellyze | Spain

Tourism is resilient. While it has been one of the most impacted sectors by global crisis, it has also demonstrated its potential as a major force of recovery.

Now, with an accelerated digital transformation and technology adoption throughout the tourism value chain, the sector stands out as a leader for responding to the toughest challenges.

At the same time, youth has proven its capacity to come up with technology, social impact, and sustainability solutions. However, they need concrete support to keep their energy and unleash all their projects’ benefits.

For this reason, UNWTO calls for a joint effort amongst stakeholders and launches the Awake Tourism Challenge seeking to find the most innovative startups that are working to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.


We are awake and ready to go, are you?

Apply Now!




Startups from all walks of life, from all over the world and all economic sectors are invited to participate if meeting the following criteria:

  • Be innovative in nature providing value-added solutions
  • Be sustainability-driven
  • Be scalable: to have potential for international growth and potential to be applied in corporations and destinations (countries, regions)
  • Be an Early Stage or Series A startup
  • Introduction or adoption of digital and technological elements
  • Have a tested pilot and business plan
  • Have been accelerated before
  • Have a full-time team including at least 2 members under 35 years. Gender balance will be also considered.

All ways of innovation are welcome: technology, social impact and sustainability solutions.


UNWTO has identified 6 challenges that that will act as the categories for this programme. As there might be projects able to contribute to more than category, the one in which the positive impact is expected to be stronger should be selected.

  1. Local community involvement: 80% of all people living in ‘extreme poverty’ live in rural communities1 while domestic, rural and eco-tourism have emerged as the most popular travel choices. With a focus on communities, the sector has a great potential to stimulate local economies and improve the economic conditions of low-income and vulnerable populations.
  2. Green and blue economies: tourism can be a source of economic opportunities at the same time of protecting natural ecosystems by developing its operations with sustainable infrastructure through more efficient energy, water, and waste management systems.
  3. Ecological and Sustainable Capital Creation: sustainable capital has the potential to optimize resource usage, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also provide a competitive market advantage for businesses. At this point, green investments and sustainable financial mechanisms can boost tourism potential to achieve the SDGs.
  4. Tourism Tech for Good: advancements in deep technology have revolutionized the sector, especially since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, by simultaneously improving customer experience and increasing quality of life and wellness for societies, including topics such as accessibility, inclusion, poverty alleviation. Artificial Intelligence, crypto, blockchain, metaverse, NFTs are welcomed in this category.
  5. Tourism Education: despite representing 10% of the world’s jobs2 before Covid-19, tourism has faced a challenge in terms of skills development. Indeed, almost 20%3 of the employed people in selected tourism industries in the European Union had less than primary and lower secondary education in 2018. Furthermore, currently there is no continuous measurement or updated data on skills development and its contribution to creating added value jobs, which are fundamental to advance in this agenda.
  6. Women Empowerment: while employing the largest number of women4 in most regions of the world, they yet tend to be concentrated in the lowest paid and lowest status jobs in the sector. Startups with a gender focus can be an important contributor to equality.

1 De La O Campos et alia, 2018 in World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). (2020). Recommendations on Tourism and Rural Development – A Guide to Making Tourism an Effective Tool for Rural Development.
2 World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). (2019). World Tourism Day 2019. Retrieved fromhttps://www.unwto.org/world-tourism-day-2019
3 Eurostat. (2019). Tourism creates jobs for women and young workers. Available at https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/products-eurostat-news/-/EDN-20190927-1
4 World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). (2019). Global Report on Women and Tourism – Second Edition. Retrieved from https://www.e-unwto.org/doi/book/10.18111/9789284420384


Participating startups will be assessed according to their:

  • Contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals
  • Ease of value capture via collaboration with the startup
  • Potential business impact
  • Maturity of the product/technology
  • Maturity of the team and the organization
  • Partnership readiness

Benefits for winning startups include but are not limited to:

  • Sponsorship provided by Wakalua to pitch at the UNWTO Demo Day (venue and country tbc);
  • Application through the YouNoodle platform, which facilitates introduction and growth opportunities for startups;
  • Access to 90+ Venture Capitalists, Top Corporations and 150+ Countries;
  • Become a Member of the UNWTO Innovation Network;
  • Curated mentorship and acceleration programme from our partners;
  • Membership at the Startup Campuses;
  • Potential pilot project with private sector collaborators and institutions;
  • Potential seed funding;
  • Incubation services in Les Roches Spark Innovation Center, including 3 months accommodation in Crans-Montana, provided by the Sommet Education group.

Get ready for your application:

  1. Keep in mind the category you will apply for
  2. Read the Terms & Conditions of the Competition
  3. Read the questions in the Application form
  4. Make an attractive pitch deck in English (no more than 15 slides)
  5. List your web page, social media users and contact information
  6. Once you have all of them ready, fill out the Application form in English and submit it

Once you have all of them ready, fill out the Application form in English





21 April 2022


Deadline for candidatures

15 October 2022


Announcement of winning startups

January 2023


Pitching round for winners

Tbc 2023


After the competition

Derrick Gakuu

Ifarm 360
Derrick Gakuu
Co-founder and CTO
Ifarm Agritech

Winner of the category SDG 1 – Zero poverty

“We won the International FAO Innovation Award for Sustainable Food Systems 2021”.

Winner of the category SDG 5 – Gender equality

“I had the opportunity to launch my platform in the Spanish market. Now I am based in Madrid and I am working to keep my business growing”.

Jussara Pellicano
Founder and CEO

Jussara Pellicano
Robert Grajewski

Robert Grajewski
Senior Vice President
Enexor BioEnergy

Winner of the category SDG 7 - Affordable and clean energy

“We closed a Series A funding round of USD 10 million led by BorgWarner and Halliburton Co”.

Winner of the category SDG 10 – Reduced inequalities

“We have gotten worldwide interest for our product and we were selected to the Microsoft AI for Good Program”.

Lioz Amar
Founder and CEO

Lioz Amar

Partners 2022


In collaboration with:


Main partners:

Les Roches

Airline Partner

Qatar Airways
Air Europa

Destination partner:

Singapore Tourism Board


Google for Startups
Logo Startup Europe Awords
Future food Institute
The Valley
Nest - Tourism Innovation Center Portugal