WTD & Innovation > UNWTO Activities

Innovation in tourism, as elsewhere, is collaborative action between governments, academia, corporations, MSMEs and start-ups, investors, business development partners (accelerators, incubators, etc.) and other stakeholders. Fostering a successful tourism innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem requires connecting all stakeholders to collaboration opportunities and prioritizing capacity building in tourism and technology.

UNWTO has a newly developed strategy on tourism innovation and digital transformation to unleash the potential of the sector. This strategy introduces new activities aimed at connecting and sharing knowledge among the entire tourism innovation ecosystem – meaning the large and diverse base of participants and resources necessary for innovation, ranging from those with already thriving innovations to those developing them. These activities also target the uptake of new technologies that increase destination competitiveness, resource efficiency and inclusion.

These activities include:

  • A UNWTO Tourism Innovation Hubs Network that will unify the leading hubs worldwide, and empower entrepreneurs by providing visibility, mentoring, funding, opportunities to scale initiatives up to international level, and offices to work in. In addition, UNWTO Members will be able to be actively involved by launching national innovation tourism challenges using the network.
  • UNWTO Tourism Tech (Ad)Venture Forums, innovation forums dedicated to tourism that will bring together all the actors of the ecosystem to identify disruptive ideas, share knowledge, and promote investments in the sector. These forums will include boot camp activities and competitions for startups, activities to connect investors and corporations with talented entrepreneurs, and high-level seminars for Member States on topics such as big data and jobs of the future. Hackathons will also be organized to solve tourism challenges faced by Member States.
  • A UNWTO Digital Network Platform that will collect information and contacts of leading institutions, corporations, startups, investors, academia and business supporters that are innovating in tourism, allowing for cooperation on initiatives, promotion of investments and creation of new business opportunities.
  • A Community of Tourism Innovation Leaders, identified by UNWTO, who can mentor and inspire actors in the innovation ecosystem, sharing knowledge and helping Member States understand innovation trends and changes so they can adapt and develop strategic tourism products. In collaboration with these leaders UNWTO will produce reports and white papers for our Member States on relevant innovation topics (e.g. on regulatory issues such as tourists' data protection and new business models).
  • UNWTO will also further develop smart destinations through exchanging good practices among Member States, producing guidelines and smart destination models, and training Member States in the use of new technologies.


Startup Competition


1st UNWTO Tourism Startup Competition

Against this backdrop UNWTO, in partnership with Globalia, has launched the 1st UNWTO Tourism Startup Competition, which aims to find the most disruptive projects that are transforming the way people travel and experience tourism.

For the most disruptive tourism startups that are committed to sustainability, this competition can be the driving force to scale up operations and grow internationally, by providing a platform for connecting with the world’s top global investors, corporations and business supporters.

Following a global call for applications, which began on 26 June 2018, the 20 most disruptive startups will be invited to pitch their solutions to a jury of tourism leaders, including top global investors, at this year’s official celebration of World Tourism Day. The projects submitted will focus on the future of travel, experience of tourism, environmental impact and community development.

Together, we can better foster the innovation of tourism products, improve tourism governance and maximize the benefits of the tourism sector, namely job creation, sustainability and inclusion.

Startups are invited to apply online before 3 September 2018. Note that applications received after the deadline will not be considered. To submit an application and for more information about the competition, visit the official website: http://www.tourismstartups.org/.


Here are some examples of the semifinalists of the 1st UNWTO Tourism Startup Competition:

Awake - Byhours - CheKin - E-bot7 - Higuests - Kompas - Mabrian - Mad Travel - Mile Positioning Solutions - Oveit - Pruvo - Refundit - Stay22 - The Freebird club - TravelGateX - Wishtrip

Media partner

CNN partner World Tourism Day