A glance at 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.
In the three years since their launch, the UNWTO Innovation Competitions and Challenges, have attracted talent from every global region. Such wide reach is reflected in the results of the last the seven competitions and six specific challenges which received over 7,750 applications from more than 150 countries. These projects have a proven potential to scale up and incorporate new technologies such as block-chain, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and augmented/virtual reality. The Challenges and Competitions are multi-thematic and can be tailored to the prevailing needs and demands of the tourism sector at any given time.
2020 in review
This year has presented unprecedented challenges to the sector but has also promoted innovation. Entrepreneurs have provided ground-breaking ideas and solutions to reboot the sector, specially aimed at mitigating the impact of COVID-19. This year’s top winning and shortlisted Startups came from all regions of the world, especially Europe and the Americas. Among the participants, 27,8% were women-leading startups, and 41% of this year’s winners were female entrepreneurs.
of Growth 2019 - 2020
Incubators / Accelerators
Among the solutions presented, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Cloud were the preferred technologies mainly for delivering solutions related to Online Travel Agencies and Hotels & Hospitality Management. Even with the challenges of 2020, our Startups managed to source 37.122.932 USD in funding this year alone and 74.890.240 USD since the creation of the Department- ‘Angel’ and Venture Capitalists’ were identified as the main investors. Further information will be released soon in the Travel Tech Startups Ecosystem and Investment Landscape Report.
At the end of our second year of operation, UNWTO has directly supported more than 1,000 entrepreneurs around the world with numerous projects set to scale up in 2021 and beyond. These projects have the potential to restart tourism and benefit communities as well as contribute to the SDGs. Our gratitude goes to all the governments and public entities, academia, corporations, investors, Startups & MSMEs and supporting business partners who made these results possible during this unprecedented year. The 2021 UNWTO Innovation Agenda shall be full of more Challenges and Competitions to keep on encouraging the adoption of disruptive technologies and so offer more seamless and sustainable tourism, enhance capacity building and the chance to build back better, as well as the opportunity for the Startups to connect, partner, and scale-up.
List of 2020 Challenges and Competitions
2nd UNWTO Global Gastronomy Tourism Startup Competition set out to identify challenges and projects, and catalyzing innovations that can transform the Gastronomy Tourism sector in the near future. Partners: Basque Culinary Center (BCC). Participants: Over 300 applications from 150 countries. Winners: FoodieOn (the Republic of Korea) and Jiranis Food (Kenya)
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, Ministerio de Industria Energía y Turismo de España y FADEMUR. Participants: Over 136 applications from 18/19 Spain’s Autonomous Communities. Winners: My Street Book and Vanwoow (Spain)
UNWTO Healing Solutions for Tourism Challenge A global call to reach the most disruptive startups, entrepreneurs and drive solutions to mitigate COVID-19’s impacts on tourism. Partners: WHO. Participants: Over 1,000 applications from 100 countries. Winners: HandInScan/ Chameleon (Canada/USA), OUTPOST Healthcare (Canada), SeeTrue AI (Israel), Checkpoint (Spain) MyStay (Czech Republic), WAAM MACHINES (Poland), iBonus Limited (Hong Kong), Beautiful Destinations, Inc. and Airside (USA)
#EUvsVirus Hackathon – UNWTO played a central role within the framework of the pan-European Hackathon led by the European Commission, the European Innovation Council and in close collaboration with the EU member states to connect civil society, innovators, partners and investors across Europe in order to develop innovative solutions for coronavirus-related challenges. UNWTO Independently organized, selected and coordinated a 100+ person team with 7,000 participants to lead and coordinate the Education Pilar of the hackathon. Overall, over 20,900 people from across the EU and beyond took part, with 2,150 solutions submitted, 279 of which were selected in the field of education.
Hospitality Challenge: Supporting the Hospitality Talents of Tomorrow set out to identify ideas and individuals capable of accelerating the recovery of the tourism sector in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Partners: Sommet Education. Participants: over 1,000 applications from over 95 countries. The top 30 applicants will receive full-board scholarships to world class education programmes Winners: 15 made it to the final and 4 were picked as winners of the categories of Healing for People and Healing for Destinations. (See true(Israel, smart occupancy (Spain), MyStay (Czech Republic), WAAM (Poland)
Beyond Tourism Innovation Challenge set out to identify new digital skills for the recovery phase post-COVID, and environmental sustainability. Partners: Over 214 applications from 28 countries. Participants: Over 214 applications from 28 countries. Winners: Better Batteries (Barbados), Belizing Tourism Innovation Lab (Belize), INTO (Costa Rica), Green Fins Hub (Dominican Republic), Safe Lodges Equal Safe Guests (Guyana), Caribbean Tourism Career Accelerator (Haiti), Digital Transformation of Indigenous (Panama) and Nariva Swamp (Trinidad and Tobago)
UNWTO Inspiration Africa Branding Challenge set out to identify a campaign that positions Africa as a destination in the minds of travellers supporting the efforts of individual countries and companies, making tourism a driver of development in the continent. Partners: CNN Participants: Over 150 applications from 48 countries. Winner: UBUNTU: Africa invites you to live-Atrevia (Spain)
Desafio Brasileiro de Inovação em Turismo set out to boost innovation in the Brazilian tourism sector, by improving the competitiveness of the sector throughout the country by digitally transforming public and private organizations. Partners: Ministério do Turismo Brasil and Wakalua. Participants: Over 700 applications participants. Winners: WorldPackers (Brazil)
UNWTO Sustainable Development Goals Global Startup Competition set out to support long-term recovery through the achievement of the SDGs. Partners: Google, Mastercard, Plug and Play, Amadeus, Telefónica and the InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB) Participants: Over 10.000 participants from 138 countries. The 60 finalists from 28 countries were already announced. Winners: Not yet announced
UNWTO Smart Solutions for Smart Destinations Challenge set out to identify innovative, intelligent solutions that maximize the visitor’s experience of stadiums or events. Partners: Athletic Club of Bilbao and Deputy for Economic Promotion, Regional Government of Bizkaia. Participants: Over 99 applications from 37 countries. Winners: NECSUM Trisom (Spain) and Orwell Virtual Reality (Italy)
2ND edition of the Travel Tech for Good Accelerator initiative. In its second edition, this accelerator sourced top social impact startups from East Africa offering coaching for entrepreneurs, during which local and international mentors help them innovate their business models, research potential investors and clients, and bring their business pitches to the next level. Partners: Tui Care Foundation and Enpact Selected participants: Tripxio (Uganda), SINA Village (Uganda), Mauritius Conscious (Mauritius), 54HOMES (Uganda)