The return of tourism is an opportunity to awaken its potential and transform lives


The UNWTO has launched the second edition of its main global competition under the name of “Awake Tourism Challenge”. The contest will identify innovators who are advancing solutions to 6 different challenges, as well as contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

For the 2022 challenge, UNWTO will focus on specific areas that can help the recovery of the tourism sector in a disruptive way and that deserve special attention at this time, namely:

Community Involvement: 80% of people living in “extreme poverty” live in rural communities, while domestic, rural and ecotourism have become the most popular travel options.
Green and blue economies: Tourism can be a source of economic opportunity while protecting natural ecosystems.
Creation of green and sustainable capital: sustainable capital has the potential to optimize the use of resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide a competitive advantage for companies.
Tourism Tech for Good: Technological advances have revolutionized the sector, especially since the start of the pandemic. Artificial Intelligence, Cryptography, Blockchain, Metaverse, NFT are welcome in this category.
Tourism education: despite representing 10% of the world’s jobs, updated data and new tools for education and skills development are needed.
Empowerment of Women: Women tend to be concentrated in the lower paying and lower status jobs in tourism. Gender-focused startups can be an important contributor to equality.

The return of tourism is an opportunity to awaken its potential to transform lives

Organized in collaboration with Wakalua, the first global innovation center, promoted by Ávoris, the contest also has the support of several important partners, including; SPARK, the Les Roches innovation hub of the Sommet Education group, and Ankh Impact Ventures (AIV), an impact-driven venture capital investment platform with a racial and gender equity lens. It also has strong support from the public and private sectors, with Qatar Airways and Qatar Tourism, Singapore Tourism Board, KPMG, MasterCard, Amadeus, IE University, Telefónica, Wayra, ClarkeModet, The FarCo, BBVA, MentorDay, Finnova, Google for Startups , The Valley Digital Business School, the Future Food Institute and the Inter-American Development Bank are all on board.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashviki said: “The return of tourism is an opportunity to awaken its potential to transform lives. UNWTO calls on start-ups from around the world to submit their ideas to address the biggest challenges facing our sector and to make tourism a champion of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Startups are invited to participate as long as:

Apply to 1 of the 6 challenges
Include 1 or more SDGs
Are innovative and provide value-added solutions
Are driven by sustainability
Are scalable, with potential for international growth and potential for application in corporations and destinations (countries, regions)
Are they Early Stage or Series A startups?
Have a proven pilot and business plan
Have been accelerated before
Have a full-time team already in place

The 12 most disruptive startups (2 for each of the Challenges) will receive support to scale. UNWTO will present the best ideas to its Member States, Affiliate Members and investors, providing them with a unique networking opportunity. Additional benefits include the opportunity to participate in a special UNWTO Demo Day and access to technology support and the UNWTO Innovation Network, as well as a curated mentoring program with individual and group training sessions on key topics such as intellectual property. , sustainability in business and leadership, possible seed funding for female founders of ANKH Impact Startups and incubation for 3 months in the SPARK Innovation Lab.

Applications are now open and will close on June 31, 2022. The winning startups will be announced in October. For more information and to apply, visit the UNWTO Awake Tourism Challenge webpage.

SDG Global Startup Competition SDG 2020 Edition:
The 2020 edition was supported by more than 25 partners from across the global innovation ecosystem and attracted more than 10,000 entries from 150 countries. The winners had the opportunity to meet with ministers, corporations and investors at the Final Event in Madrid and have been linked with funding opportunities and pilot projects.

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