Wellington-based startup programme Lightning Lab has teamed up with Tourwriter, an award-winning Kiwi tourism-tech company, to launch Tourism Accelerator 2020.

Set to commence in October 2020, the programme focuses on helping startup founders who are designing solutions to make travel better for travellers, suppliers, and the environment.

The programme, sponsored by Callaghan Innovation and Tourwriter, is a streamlined, primarily-virtual version of the regular programme that had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lightning Lab General Manager, Luke Ball, says that innovation in the tourism industry was needed now more than ever.

“We know that now is an incredibly uncertain time for the tourism industry. We don’t know when borders will open and when international visitors will come back. If we can find a way to contribute in a small way to bolstering the industry through innovation, then why not now?” he said.

In regards to the timing of the accelerator, Ball says there is nothing to be gained by shying away from the challenge.

“We could continue postponing programmes, or we could do it anyway: bring smart people together and support them to make travel better, smarter and more environmentally friendly.”

Tourwriter co-CEO, Glenn Campbell says that the theme underpinning the 2020 programme is a need for ‘better travel’ and marks a shift away from what Campbell refers to as ‘cookie cutter travel’…. “that kind of same-same travel that’s easy to book, but seldom memorable in the way a well-researched itinerary can be, and often results in over-tourism’.

The Tourism Accelerator targets three impact areas for better travel: smarter travel matchmaking, new financial solutions, and environmental guardianship.

Up to six ventures will be accepted into the four-month mentorship programme. Selected startups will work closely with a large team of experienced mentors and investors who have built, advised, and sold companies in the tourism sector. At the end of the programme, each venture will have the opportunity to pitch for cash investment from investors, underwritten to the value of $100,000.

Applications are now open and close on the 30 September 2020. The programme will commence on 29 October and finishes on 19 February 2021.

For more information, visit lightninglab.co.nz/tourism