UNWTO Startup Competition

UNWTO Tourism Startup Competitions

The Startup Competitions are our flagship innovation programme.

They seek for the most disruptive projects that are changing the way people travel and how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are reached all over the world. They provide an exceptional platform for great ideas to continue scaling up through gathering the entire global tourism ecosystem: Member States, startups, institutions, education centers, corporations and investors. This support is translated into mentoring, exposure to the sector and investments form our network.

There are two types of competitions: the generic ones, which solutions are widely spread through the tourism value chain, and the thematic ones, focused on a specific tourism product.

UNWTO SDGs Global Startup Competition
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The largest innovation competition to accelerate the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Startups from all walks of life, from all over the world and all economic sectors are invited to participate.

Scope: Global
Launch: 14 July 2020
New deadline for candidatures:  10 October 2020 23:59 CET
Announcement of winning startups: November 2020
Pitching round for winners:  November 2020
More information here!

2nd UNWTO Gastronomy Tourism Startup Competition (powered by Basque Culinary Center)
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Gastronomy tourism continues to be a top election for both national and international travelers. It is no more a trend but a robust tourism product. For this reason, UNWTO and BCC launched once again the 2nd UNWTO Gastronomy Tourism Startup Competition.

We encourage you to apply and help us accelerate tourism worldwide:

Scope: Global
Launch: 28 January 2020
Deadline for applications:  6 April 2020
Announcement of the 5 Finalists: 4 May 2020
Final pitch session and Announcement of the winner: 1-3 June 2020 at the 6th UNWTO World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism
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1st UNWTO Rural Tourism Startup Competition
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In the wake of the year of Tourism and Rural Development, the UNWTO encourage Spanish entrepreneurs to come up with solutions for rural development challenges through tourism. The most impactful and innovative solutions will be awarded, as it is a top priority to make our world more sustainable.

Scope: Spain
Launch: 20 February 2020
Deadline for applications:  1 May 2020
Announcement of the 5 Finalists: 1 July 2020
Final pitch session and Announcement of the winner: 27 September 2020
More information

2nd UNWTO Sports Tourism Startup Competition


2019 competitions

2nd UNWTO Tourism Startup Competition (powered by Wakalua)

The 2nd UNWTO Tourism Startup Competition gathered over 1700 applications from 150 countries, reaching 12 more nationalities than the previous edition. The format was based on 6 categories, such as: smart mobility, rural development, disruptive hospitality, smart destinations, deep tech applied to geolocalization, and innovative tourism solutions. Each of them was supported by a corporate partner who was actively involved in the selection process. Thus far, entrepreneurs have evolved towards more scalable business models, greater focus on the Sustainable Development Goals and disruptive solutions based on state-of-the-art technologies, highlighting the use of Cloud Front Backend Systems, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Internet-of-Things. The Final was held in Madrid on 20 January 2020 and presented the winners of each vertical and the most exciting tourism insights from international experts.

1st UNWTO Gastronomy Tourism Startup Competition (powered by Basque Culinary Center)

This competition was designed to track the most innovative startups in gastronomy tourism, which merges the best of travelling with the intangible heritage of the destinations. It gathered over 300 submissions from 80 countries with finalists representing Italy, Spain, Israel, the Czech Republic and Japan. These finalists presented their proposals in San Sebastián, Spain on 3 May 2019 within the framework of the 5th UNWTO World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism.

1st UNWTO Sports Tourism Startup Competition (powered by Barca Innovation Hub)

This competition received over 100 initiatives from over 50 countries. Participants came up with solutions ranging from new technologies, community-based tourism development platforms, software initiatives and innovation-driven sports tech projects. Finalists made their pitches in the Tourism Tech Adventures: SportsTech Macau on 13 October, 2019.


2018 competitions

1st UNWTO Tourism Startup Competition (powered by Wakalua)

This first edition was launched in the framework of World Tourism Day 2018 and gathered over 3,000 applications representing 133 countries. Its Final was held on the International Tourism Fair 2019 (Fitur) and its winning start-up was the Israeli-based Refundit, which got a funding of 25 € millions from Amadeus Ventures.