UNWTO Global Rural Tourism Startup Competition

UNWTO Global Rural Tourism Startup Competition

Accelerating Rural Development through tourism to achieve the SDGs

People - Leaving no one behind


  • Agbaye.com (Nigeria)
    Agbaye.com is eradicating poverty by allowing SMEs to work online.

  • CampInn.com (UK)
    CampInn is where you can book the outdoor online and campsites or hosts in rural areas can promote their land or businesses for free.

  • Homiefoo (Mexico)
    Everything for your trip in one place, offered directly by the beautiful local people.

  • Rooral  (Spain)
    A social enterprise that bridges the urban-rural gap by helping both worlds colive and cowork together.

  • Shake to Win  (China, People's Republic of)
    Offers western brands support inside the "complex" Chinese digital ecosystem while also using data collection for helping rural spots (such as museums, restaurants, stores, and local brands) to understand the purchasing behaviour of the Chinese audience and travellers.


Planet - building back better


  • STOKE (United States)
    STOKE (Sustainable Tourism & Outdoors Kit for Evaluation) is the first and only sustainability certification and software platform built for the adventure travel and outdoor industries.

  • The GREEN Program  (United States)
    Short-term, experiential education for our world's most pressing issues in sustainable development.

  • Ecostars  (Spain)
    Ecostars is an Ecological Hotel Rating based on the carbon and water footprint that each hotel generates for every night occupied.

  • Find Folk Company Limited (Thailand)
    One stop service for sustainable tourism

  • Nomadic Escapes Ltd.  (Mauritius)
    A nature positive lodging brand that delivers outstanding guest experiences, supports local economies and regenerates eco-systems


Prosperity - opportunities for growth


  • ViaVii  (Jordan)
    ViaVii is a hyper-personalized online marketplace and software provider designed to seamlessly enable travelers and hosts to connect, explore, and book authentic experiences and activities on-the-go.

  • Oasis Hunters  (Spain)
    Marketplace of secret rural getaways

  • Vaolo Inc.  (Canada)
    Vaolo is a collaborative platform for social innovation that aims to build a bridge between off-the-beaten-path, rural and sustainable travel experiences with local impacts and conscious travellers.

  • CloudGuide (Spain)
    CloudGuide offers a sightseeing app to guide and engage the visitors at tourist attractions.

  • Campanyon (Norway)
    Marketplace platform that connects nature lovers with hosts that rent out campsites, glamping, fields, farms, cabins, tent and hammock spots in nature.


Propulsion of Rural Tech - Implementation of new technologies


  • elloha  (France)
    Elloha helps tourism business owners to simply sell their offers on digital market.

  • ROTAMUNDOS (Mexico)
    The direct to consumer ecosystem of lodging spaces, tours, attractions, and activities worldwide.

  • TavAR (Paraguay)
    Through citizen input and participation, TavAR uses augmented reality to document the history of a community and make it accessible to the public and visitors, with the goal of promoting tourism in both rural communities and countries at large.

    Thanks to Augmented Reality, CultuAR (an AR Vision product) permits digital information to be added to places of touristic interest in a locality.

  • HOP Ubiquitous S.L. (Spain)
    We are a team focused on designing products oriented to real needs (Human Oriented Products for Urban areas), placing people at the epicentre to generate solutions based on user experience and enhance the value of ICTs.


Join us in building back better from Covid-19 with your ideas for a more inclusive, sustainable and resilient sector.

The UNWTO Global Rural Tourism Startup Competition seeks to source new startups and entrepreneurs that advance the contribution of tourism to rural development and support recovery.

Creating opportunities in Rural Destinations through innovation and digital transformation in tourism to:

  • Fighting poverty: 80% of all people living in ‘extreme poverty’ live in rural communities.
  • Curbing depopulation: By 2050 68% of the world population will live in urban areas and cities will produce 85% of global economic output.
  • Closing the Digital Divide - 87 per cent of people in developed countries used the Internet, compared with just 19 per cent in the least developed countries.
  • Supporting Women and Youth- More that 50% of global workforce employed in tourism are women and nearly 1 billion of the world’s 1.2 billion youth aged 15-24 reside in developing countries and 88% of youth in developing countries live in rural areas; 75 million of them are unemployed.

1. Benefits

  • Mentoring by UNWTO and top partners
  • Tailored support for your startup
  • Investment opportunities
  • Form part of the UNWTO Innovation Network
  • Form part of the UNWTO Best Tourism Villages of the World Pilot Initiative
  • Scholarship opportunities for the Tourism Online Academy
  • Opportunity to present your startup at the 24th UNWTO General Assembly in Marrakech Morocco

*more details can be found in the Terms of Reference here.

2. Calendar



6 April


Deadline to submit candidatures

15 July


Annoucement of finalists

September 2021


Final Pitch Round

October 2021


Announcement of winners

November-December 2021

3. Categories

People - Leaving no one behind

Projects that incentivize the creation of jobs and opportunities, promote gender and youth empowerment, build opportunities for vulnerable groups in rural areas.

Planet - building back better

Projects related to the promotion and protection of natural resources, namely the mitigation of the impact of tourism on waste, energy and water in rural areas.

Prosperity - opportunities for growth

Startups that provide innovative solutions through new business models, instruments that promote access to finance, markets and marketing for tourism in rural areas.

Propulsion of Rural Tech - Implementation of new technologies

Deep Tech – startups implementing new technologies to advance tourism and development in rural areas.

4. The Challenge


Domestic tourism has shown positive signs in many markets since people tend to travel closer. Travellers go for 'staycations' or vacations close to home.

New concerns
New concerns

Health & Safety measures and cancellation policies are consumers' main concerns.

Get away
Get away

Nature, Rural Tourism and Road Trips have emerged as popular travel choices due to travel limitations and the quest for open-air experiences.

Last minute
Last minute

Last-minute bookings have increased due to volatility of pandemic-related events and the travel restrictions.

Change in demographics
Younger travellers most resilient

Change in demographics:
travel recovery has been stronger among younger segments. 'Mature' travellers and retirees will be the most impacted segments.

More responsible
More responsible

Sustainability, authenticity and localhood:
travellers have been giving more importance to creating a positive impact on local communities, increasing looking for authenticity.

Tourism has proven to be a tool for economic diversification and a major employment engine with a multiplier effect on other sectors that contribute to rural development. Tourism in rural areas can particularly benefit traditionally disadvantaged groups such as women - who make up 54% of the workforce in the tourism sector compared to 39% for the overall economy.

In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered rising interest from tourists looking for new experiences based around natural and rural areas in the open air, far from congested settings. This, combined with the already rising demand for more authentic experiences that over stronger engagement with local communities, their culture and products, such as local OR traditional gastronomy, etc., as well as demand for a greener approach in all stages of the travel experience opens up immense opportunities for the economic, social and environmental revitalization of rural areas through tourism.

The current crisis has also emphasized the importance of building resilience among communities in those rural areas which rely on tourism. This implies better social protection and benefits-sharing among communities, as well as economic diversification and the broadening of tourism products and markets through added value experiences. To achieve this, investment, skills development and education, access to finance, infrastructure development, digital transformation, sustainable development, impact assessment, improved governance and women’s empowerment should be placed at the heart of the recovery plans for tourism in rural communities. This will help support them as they navigate the crisis and build back better for people and planet.

Our Partners

Media Partner

Viajes National Geographic

Travel Partner

Air Eurpopa

Institutional Collaborators

AWS activate
Impact HUB
International Trade Centre
Ministerio para la transición ecológica y el reto demográfico
Nest Portugal
Telefónica Open Future
Tui Care Foundation

Previous edition:

2019 Edition (Spain): The UNWTO Rural Tourism Competition (Spain) set out to promote solutions to rural Spain's challenges, strengthen the role of tourism in addressing local problems with an emphasis on greater employment and entrepreneurship opportunities based on sustainability.
Partners: Google, Ministry of Energy and Tourism of Spain and FADEMUR.
Participants: Over 136 applications from 18/19 Spain’s Autonomous Communities.
Winners: My Street Book and Vanwoow (Spain).

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 to 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.

UNWTO Recommendations on Tourism and Rural Development: The Recommendations aim to assist governments as well as the private sector and international community and outline the key steps necessary to fully harness the potential and resilience of tourism to drive inclusive and sustainable social and economic development in rural areas.