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Tourism Enters the Global Innovation Agenda

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The first edition of the 1st UNWTO Tourism Startup Competition, organized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in partnership with Globalia, the leading tourism group in Spain and Latin America, is a pioneering initiative that has identified emerging companies at the forefront of the transformation of the tourism sector and the promotion of innovation ecosystems through tourism. The 20 semi-finalists, from 12 countries, pitched their projects in the framework of the recent official celebration of World Tourism Day in the presence of public and private sector leaders of the global tourism sector, as well as investors. The finalist projects will be presented at the next edition of the International Tourism Fair of Madrid (Fitur), in January 2019.

The competition seeks to identify innovative startups capable of transforming the way people travel and experience tourism, while adhering closely to the principles of sustainability (economic, social, environmental). The 20 semi-finalists addressed areas such as community development (15%), the future of travel (35%) and the tourism experience (50%).

“We have positioned tourism for the first time in the global innovation agenda, a well-deserved place that reflects the weight and socio-economic impact of tourism,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. “The key is to connect the public and private sectors collaboratively, thus creating opportunities to share ideas and projects,” he added.

Each project’s uniqueness, viability, potential impact, business model and scalability, along with the profile of the team behind it, were the criteria for selecting the 20 semi-finalists.

“As a global tourism group, we are delighted to lead and spearhead this initiative together with the World Tourism Organization and we want to work together to lead the transformation of the tourism sector and set a benchmark; that is why we have promoted this public-private collaboration model, which is a first in tourism,” said Globalia CEO Javier Hidalgo.

The semi-finalists notably feature innovative projects that redefine how trips are planned and how tourism is experienced, while promoting sustainability and community involvement. All this is combined with the application of technology to revolutionize business models and corporate management in the sector.

An innovative event

Globalia and the World Tourism Organization have entrusted this initiative to Barrabés.biz, an innovation consultancy with over 20 years of experience in creating, connecting and activating entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems.

The technological platform chosen to manage the competition was YouNoodle, a pioneering Silicon Valley firm that specializes in innovation and entrepreneurship competitions at the global level.

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Leaders Discuss Role of Tourism in Asia and Pacific’s Development Future

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Tourism has significant potential to contribute to Asia and the Pacific’s long-term growth prospects through infrastructure development and job creation. But governments should work to ensure the industry grows in a socially and environmentally sustainable way, according to participants at a high-level Asian Development Bank (ADB) seminar.

The Governors’ Seminar, titled “The Role of Tourism for Sustainable Development,” at the 52nd Annual Meeting of ADB’s Board of Governors in Nadi, Fiji, featured as panelists Japan Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Mr. Taro Aso; Indonesia Finance Minister Ms. Sri Mulyani Indrawati; Fiji Attorney-General and Minister for Economy, Civil Service, and Communications Mr. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum; Italy’s Director-General for International Financial Relations, Ministry of Economy and Finance Ms. Gelsomina Vigliotti; and ADB President Mr. Takehiko Nakao.

In 2018, 343 million international tourist arrivals and $390 billion in international tourist spending went to Asia and the Pacific. International visitors to Asia have risen by 65% between 2010 and 2018 with key Asian destinations being the People’s Republic of China; Thailand; Japan; Hong Kong, China; and Malaysia. Asian tourists are also an increasing driver of global tourism with higher incomes and a rapidly growing middle class seeking experiences abroad. Globally, international tourist arrivals are expected to reach 2.44 billion by 2030, a 75% increase over 2018, with Asia and the Pacific projected to account for a third of this number.

Tourism plays a large role in the Asian economy. Spending on hotels and airline tickets was $92 billion in 2018 with an estimated 78 million new jobs created. The indirect impact such as through tourism-related investment on new hotels or airplane purchases was larger at $2.94 trillion, creating an estimated 180 million jobs. In Fiji, tourism contributed 14% of the local economy with the indirect impacts accounting for 40% of gross domestic product.

Seminar discussions highlighted several points. Tourism should be encouraged as a key contributor to investment, employment, and tax revenues through investment in both infrastructure and people. For example, world-class airports and airport staff in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur contribute to the vitality of tourism in Thailand and Malaysia. With land being a key component of sustainable tourism, clear and effective sustainable land use regulations are needed.

Tourism creates millions of jobs, notably for women, young people, and those in remote rural areas. However, workers in tourism need the right skills and good working conditions. The Indian state of Kerala, for example, has a program that has trained some 650 residents of poor communities for jobs in local hotels.

Tourism can damage the environment which, over time, reduces visitors and revenues. Governments and the tourism industry can work together to avoid this. In Fiji, the government imposes a 10% tax on tourism-related businesses which funds climate change mitigation projects.

Similarly, cultural heritage needs protection, which could include controlling numbers of visitors to monuments or creating fiscal incentives for businesses to restore historical buildings. To protect the Angkor Wat temple, the Cambodian government created a dedicated authority to better manage the site and maximize the benefit to the local community.

Last, tourism should foster mutual understanding, peace, and safety among people of different backgrounds. Smart travel practices including data sharing is one way to do this. Currently, 16 Asian countries participate in an electronic visa scheme that has increased efficiency at border controls and boosted security. 

At the seminar, Mr. Sayed-Khaiyum stressed the importance of ensuring resilience to both natural hazards and the longer-term issue of climate change. “The infrastructure that goes to the hotels—the electricity cables, the water, the sewers, etc.—the government needs to build resilience on that. The other aspect of the environment and climate change is to do with the oceans … all countries need to make a consolidated effort in respect of climate change.” He also pointed to the need to ensure that as much of the value of the tourist spending as possible is retained within the host country by using local products and services.

Ms. Indrawati addressed the issue of ensuring that local culture and heritage are protected as tourist destinations attract visitors from other countries with different attitudes and mores. “This is exactly always the tradeoff between, on the one hand, to be a global player, in global supply chains, and how you are going to maintain the authenticity as well as the participation of your locals,” she said. Work to develop local skills to ensure tourism-inspired jobs are high quality is also key.

Panelists raised the importance of good infrastructure to support tourists and, through improved water and wastewater systems, for example, to protect the environment. “There should be development of tourist infrastructure both in quantity and quality,” said Mr. Aso. Such infrastructure needs to be disaster-resilient so that when disasters strike, countries do not lose out twice—from missing out on tourism income and having to rebuild their infrastructure and economies.

Ms. Vigliotti noted the common challenges faced by tourist destinations, whether in Europe or Asia and the Pacific. “The challenges for all the tourist destinations … are the same. You need connectivity, you need good infrastructure, and you need good maintenance.” She also stressed the importance of governance and a policy center that defines and implements a strategy.

“Asia and the Pacific has some of the world’s most beautiful natural landscapes and unique cultural monuments,” Mr. Nakao said. “As tourism continues to expand rapidly, it will be important to pursue sustainable tourism that protects the environment such as forests and coral reefs, preserves local cultures, and benefits local communities.”

ADB has supported the development of sustainable tourism in the region through financing for infrastructure, regional connectivity, and environmental protection. In the Association of Southeast Asian Nations region, ADB has provided assistance for transport, waste management, and skills training and planning, which have improved access and environments in secondary tourism destinations. Elsewhere, ADB has, for example, helped protect natural lakes and local livelihoods in the Kyrgyz Republic and Mongolia, supported tourism planning in the Federated States of Micronesia and Myanmar, and worked to improve transport, infrastructure, and utilities to ensure sustainable tourism in Bhutan and India.

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Colombia hosts UNWTO Tourism Tech Adventure: Scaling Up

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The ‘UNWTO Tourism Tech Adventure: Scaling Up´ organized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) with the support of the Colombian government, gathered 700 participants from around the world. Start-ups, academia, corporations, investors, business incubators and accelerators, discussed with the public sector how to strengthen and scale innovative business ideas for sustainable tourism development. 

The event served as a backdrop for the first Colombian platform for entrepreneurship and tourism innovation, which aims at creating synergies between relevant stakeholders, exchanging success stories and fostering a venture capital investment culture. The forum also served as a space for seed and growth stage investors to share insights on how to face the challenges of scaling up, or how to approach and engage with investors. Amadeus Ventures, Bluebox, Angel Ventures and Dux Capital are among the firms present.

Prior to the Forum, 15 Colombian startups participated in a Startup MasterClass. UNWTO partner IE Business School offered feedback on their pitches, business plans and sustainability focus, and provided overall advice on how to attract investment. This hands-on event was followed by an actual start up competition with the top prize going to James Figueroa from GDX Travel. The second prize went to Eduardo Maldonado from Tourbitz and the third to Miguel Antonio Paez from Escappy Travel.

The winner will be given access to collaborate at the Wayra Coworking Space in the capital Bogotá, including personalized mentoring from the Wayra Colombia team. The winner will also have the opportunity to once more present the project pitch in the framework of the 23rd Meeting of the UNWTO General Assembly (9-13 September 2019, Saint Petersburg, Russia).

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World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism to Analyse the Sector’s Potential

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The countdown begins for the 5th World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism to be held on 2 and 3 May in Donostia-San Sebastián, organized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Basque Culinary Center (BCC). International experts will analyse and discuss the influence and capacity of gastronomy tourism to create employment and promote entrepreneurship and how to increase its potential in the future.

Stimulating employment

The Forum will explore how the most favourable frameworks can be created in order to stimulate job creation and entrepreneurship throughout the gastronomy tourism value chain. In addition, the speakers will try to identify the most relevant skills for this type of tourism, which should foster synergies among emerging companies, promote the inclusion of disadvantaged groups and take full account of digitalization. The event will bring together speakers and experts from all regions of the world, as well as internationally renowned Basque chefs such as Elena Arzak, who is a UNWTO Ambassador for Responsible Tourism and joint head chef of the restaurant Arzak, and Andoni Luis Aduriz.

In addition, the event will host the presentation of the UNWTO/BCC Guidelines for the Development of Gastronomy Tourism.

Sessions and startups

The forum will open with a high-level panel with ministers and secretaries of state from countries that have included gastronomy tourism as part of their strategies, such as Cyprus, Slovenia or Spain, among others. Under the theme, “Public policies as key ingredients to promote gastronomy tourism”, the participants will discuss the necessary political framework for the development of gastronomy tourism as well as its capacity to create jobs and promote entrepreneurship.

In addition to shedding light on the competencies needed to meet the demands of gastronomy tourists, the sessions will encourage the creation of environments that stimulate entrepreneurship, that connect emerging companies and better integrate disadvantaged groups in the labour market. Issues related to local communities or to under-represented groups, such as women, youth and persons with disabilities, will also be discussed. In addition, topics such as the digitalization of the sector will also be analysed in order to identify the new opportunities they offer to companies. In addition, the latest advances in the creation of the necessary framework to stimulate entrepreneurship will be presented, connecting the different ecosystems with the startups that are part of the value chain of gastronomy tourism.

In this context, the five finalist startups of the First Global Gastronomy Tourism Startup Competition, organized by the UNWTO and the BCC, will present the most innovative projects in line with the UNWTO’s strategy and the contribution of gastronomy tourism to the sustainable development goals.

The programme of the Forum is complemented by nine visits that will allow the participants to take part in different experiences related to gastronomy in the Basque Country.

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