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First Global Competition for Tourism Startups Seeks Future of Travel, Environment, Community

Image credit: Matthew Henry/Shopify Burst

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and Globalia have announced the first worldwide competition for tourism startups. The UNWTO Tourism Startup Competition is accepting applications from entrepreneurs across 164 countries whose companies aim to transform tourism, whether their focus is on the future of travel, tourism experience, environmental impact or community development.

The competition welcomes for-profit or non-profit projects that are tech-based or non-technological, so long as they have the potential for scalability and a vision to grow internationally. Startups should be in the early stage or series A stage, have a business plan, and provide value-added and sustainable solutions in the tourism sector. Their business models must be related to at least one of four main areas:

Applications will remain open until September 3rd, 2018. The organizations say that the objective of the program is to select “the best solutions and the most disruptive projects,” and that their search will focus on finding pioneering proposals for implementation of emerging and disruptive technologies, as well as on startups based on new business models, such as the circular economy. In this regard, one of the pillars of this competition is to give visibility to projects that are committed to enhancing sustainability in tourism.

Projects will be evaluated according to five criteria:

  • Potential impact – solutions with a global mindset, high scalability potential and the potential to innovate and disrupt the tourism sector;
  • Business model – strong and mature business model, financial returns and clear competitive advantages to develop their business on a global scale;
  • Team profile – founders’ resume and motivations, maturity of the business, alliances and partners, initial investments, internal organization and processes;
  • Uniqueness and viability of the solution – disruptive and innovative solutions that are able to collaborate to co-develop products or services, optimizing the use of existing resources and infrastructure in order to scale the product within Globalia; and
  • Scalability and sustainability – business model, services and solutions that demonstrate scalability and sustainability in order to avoid or minimize environmental impact.

A jury will evaluate the entries and select the best projects as semi-finalists to be announced in September 2018. The 20 runners-up will have the opportunity to pitch at the official celebrations of World Tourism Day on September 27th, 2018 in Budapest, Hungary. The selected startups will receive a fully-sponsored trip to present their initiative to the jury, governments, industry leaders and international investors attending the event, as well as will benefit from a master class on how to talk to investors, ways for scaling up companies and more.

The 10 finalists will go on to sponsored participation at FITUR, the International Tourism Trade Fair, from January 24th to 27th, 2019 in Madrid, Spain where they will pitch in front of potential investors, mentors and experts.

The overall competition winner will receive the opportunity to design a pilot project with Globalia, Spain’s largest travel corporation. Work closely with Globalia’s brands including airline Air Europa, travel agency Halcón Viajes, tour operator Travelplan, hotel chain Be Live, airport handling company Groundforce, and more.

“As a global tourism group, we want to offer the winners the opportunity to work with us and transform the sector together,” said Globalia CEO Javier Hidalgo.

To deliver the competition, UNWTO and Globalia are also working with innovation consultancy firm Barrabés.biz, which boasts more than 20 years’ experience in the creation, connection and activation of entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems, as well as digital platform YouNoodle to broaden the scope of the competition and to facilitate the registration of interested startups.


Launched in 2006, Sustainable Brands has become a global learning, collaboration, and commerce community of forward-thinking business and brand strategy, marketing, innovation and sustainability professionals who are leading the way to a better future. We recognize that brands today have… [Read more about Sustainable Brands]


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