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UNWTO Global Rural Tourism Startup Competition 2021 – Call for Applications

Join us in building back better from COVID-19 with your ideas for a more inclusive, sustainable and resilient sector.

Application Deadline: 1st July 2021

About the Award: Tourism has proven to be a tool for economic diversification and a major employment engine with a multiplier effect on other sectors that contribute to rural development. Tourism in rural areas can particularly benefit traditionally disadvantaged groups such as women – who make up 54% of the workforce in the tourism sector compared to 39% for the overall economy.

In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered rising interest from tourists looking for new experiences based around natural and rural areas in the open air, far from congested settings. This, combined with the already rising demand for more authentic experiences that over stronger engagement with local communitiestheir culture and products, such as local OR traditional gastronomy, etc., as well as demand for a greener approach in all stages of the travel experience opens up immense opportunities for the economic, social and environmental revitalization of rural areas through tourism.

The current crisis has also emphasized the importance of building resilience among communities in those rural areas which rely on tourism. This implies better social protection and benefits-sharing among communities, as well as economic diversification and the broadening of tourism products and markets through added value experiences. To achieve this, investment, skills development and education, access to finance, infrastructure development, digital transformation, sustainable development, impact assessment, improved governance and women’s empowerment should be placed at the heart of the recovery plans for tourism in rural communities. This will help support them as they navigate the crisis and build back better for people and planet.

The UNWTO Global Rural Tourism Startup Competition seeks to source new startups and entrepreneurs that advance the contribution of tourism to rural development and support recovery.

Creating opportunities in Rural Destinations through innovation and digital transformation in tourism to:

  • Fighting poverty: 80% of all people living in ‘extreme poverty’ live in rural communities.
  • Curbing depopulation: By 2050 68% of the world population will live in urban areas and cities will produce 85% of global economic output.
  • Closing the Digital Divide – 87 per cent of people in developed countries used the Internet, compared with just 19 per cent in the least developed countries.
  • Supporting Women and Youth– More that 50% of global workforce employed in tourism are women and nearly 1 billion of the world’s 1.2 billion youth aged 15-24 reside in developing countries and 88% of youth in developing countries live in rural areas; 75 million of them are unemployed.

Eligible Field(s):

People – Leaving no one behind

Projects that incentivize the creation of jobs and opportunities, promote gender and youth empowerment, build opportunities for vulnerable groups in rural areas.

Planet – building back better

Projects related to the promotion and protection of natural resources, namely the mitigation of the impact of tourism on waste, energy and water in rural areas.

Prosperity – opportunities for growth

Startups that provide innovative solutions through new business models, instruments that promote access to finance, markets and marketing for tourism in rural areas.

Propulsion of Rural Tech – Implementation of new technologies

Deep Tech – startups implementing new technologies to advance tourism and development in rural areas.

Type: Contest

Eligibility: The competition is open to all entrepreneurs, whether individuals or legal entities, of legal age and with the legal capacity to enter into a contract.

Criteria: This competition is aimed at projects at an early stage of development, and will have four categories of competition: the innovation category and the social innovation category. The requirements for participation are the following:

  • Innovative/disruptive nature identified
  • Scalability potential within the business
  • Validated or tested business model
  • Market penetration
  • Entrepreneur/promoter team: Suitability of the promoter team, motivation and interest
  • Commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals
  • Relevance to the topic

In addition, other selection requirements will be evaluated, such as:

  • Market and sector: Market potential; interest of the project
  • Sustainability: an attribute that should be implemented in the services, business model, and solutions
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Social innovation: transformation potential and potential to promote social inclusion and equality by channelling and expanding the benefits of tourism among the economy and communities, empowering and improving the socio-economic conditions of the project environment to contribute to the well-being of the residents
  • Economic impact: potential for inclusion and development of the value chain, competitiveness and enhancement of rural tourism destinations in the market, opening up to new source markets and improving their positioning and promotion
  • Environmental impact: potential to help minimize the impacts caused by activities related to tourism development, protect natural resources and contribute to the fight against climate change
  • Impact on the governance and management of the destination: potential to strengthen governance and contribute to the sustainable management of rural tourism in the destination, improve the measurement and monitoring of tourism and favour decision-making and collaboration with the private sector and local communities

Eligible Countries: Any

To be Taken at (Country): Marrakech Morocco

Number of Awards: Not specified

Value of Award:

  • Mentoring by UNWTO and top partners
  • Tailored support for your startup
  • Investment opportunities
  • Form part of the UNWTO Innovation Network
  • Form part of the UNWTO Best Tourism Villages of the World Pilot Initiative
  • Scholarship opportunities for the Tourism Online Academy
  • Opportunity to present your startup at the 14th UNWTO General Assembly in Marrakech Morocco

How to Apply: Apply

  • It is important to go through all application requirements in the Award Webpage (see Link below) before applying.

Visit Award Webpage for Details

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