Passport and old camera on top of a map, image to illustrate tourism.
Tourism seeks new ways to develop. Photo: Pixabay.

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) presents a contest for startups aimed at this industry

The international organization seeks to improve the current conditions of this practice.


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Through the "Awake Tourism Challenge" competition, aimed at all markets, the organization seeks startups that promote the digitization of tourism. The deadline to apply is October 15.

Digital Transformation

The initiative seeks to “make a global call to startups that are providing solutions to the most important challenges facing tourism in order to be more innovative, sustainable and inclusive: social impact, high technology (metaverse, augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, crypto among others), education, empowerment of women, creation of ecological and sustainable capital,” told Entrepreneur Natalia Bayona, director of Innovation, Education and Investments of the UNWTO.

Initially, the organization concentrated its efforts on these digital initiatives to overcome the current difficult situation in the tourism sector at a global level, a phenomenon that is a consequence of the pandemic and the resulting difficult economic conditions.

With this call, the UNWTO points out the path that it seeks to build through an ecosystem that promotes innovation and entrepreneurship in the industry and contributes to the generation of employment, economic growth and sustainability.

Current challenges of tourism

The organization highlights 3 challenges currently facing the tourism industry:

  1. Education: Despite being one of the largest employers of young people in the world, 50% of them only have high school skills.
  2. Access to technology: More tourism businesses need to have access to payments and other digital services, as only 35% of these have successfully digitized their operations.
  3. Sustainability: The aim is to generate a culture in which tourists generate a high impact on employment and investment and little impact on natural resources.

Bayona highlighted:

The startups-corporations union and cooperation is strength. A sector such as tourism, whose business fabric is more than 80% concentrated in SMEs, has the challenge of giving each one of them tools to guarantee sustainable economic growth.

Selection process

“The chosen startups must have a great component of innovation, have a full-time team in the solution, have created a pilot project in their country or have had an acceleration or national support and be aligned with the sustainable development goals of the United Nations. That is, projects in the expansion and growth phase with proven local development,” highlights the UNWTO.

Benefits for winning startups include:

  • Sponsorship of Wakalua to participate in the day of the final presentation by the World Tourism Organization.
  • Application through the YouNoodle platform, which facilitates opportunities for the introduction and growth of startups.
  • Access to more than 90 venture capital investors to the main companies and to more than 150 countries.
  • Tutoring and acceleration program for allies of the competition such as IE University, KPMG, Google or Amadeus.
  • Affiliation to the Startup Campuses.
  • Possible pilot project with collaborators and institutions from the private sector.
  • Incubation services at the Les Roches Spark Innovation Center, including 3 months of accommodation in Crans-Montana, provided by the Sommet Education group.

Since 2018, leading startups have raised more than $214 million in financing through the UNWTO Innovation Network.

Click here to register.


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