UNWTO Awake Tourism Challenge

UNWTO calls for a joint effort amongst stakeholders and launches the Awake Tourism Challenge seeking to find the most innovative startups that are working to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.


Startups from all walks of life, from all over the world and all economic sectors are invited to participate if meeting the following criteria:

  • Be innovative in nature providing value-added solutions
  • Be sustainability-driven
  • Be scalable: to have the potential for international growth and potential to be applied in corporations and destinations (countries, regions)
  • Be an Early Stage or Series A startup
  • Introduction or adoption of digital and technological elements
  • Have a tested pilot and business plan
  • Have been accelerated before
  • Have a full-time team including at least 2 members under 35 years. Gender balance will be also considered.

All ways of innovation are welcome: technology, social impact and sustainability solutions.


UNWTO has identified 6 challenges that that will act as the categories for this programme. As there might be projects able to contribute to more than category, the one in which the positive impact is expected to be stronger should be selected.

  1. Local community involvement: 80% of all people living in ‘extreme poverty’ live in rural communities1 while domestic, rural and eco-tourism have emerged as the most popular travel choices. With a focus on communities, the sector has a great potential to stimulate local economies and improve the economic conditions of low-income and vulnerable populations.
  2. Green and blue economies: tourism can be a source of economic opportunities at the same time of protecting natural ecosystems by developing its operations with sustainable infrastructure through more efficient energy, water, and waste management systems.
  3. Ecological and Sustainable Capital Creation: sustainable capital has the potential to optimize resource usage, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also provide a competitive market advantage for businesses. At this point, green investments and sustainable financial mechanisms can boost tourism potential to achieve the SDGs.
  4. Tourism Tech for Good: advancements in deep technology have revolutionized the sector, especially since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, by simultaneously improving customer experience and increasing quality of life and wellness for societies, including topics such as accessibility, inclusion, poverty alleviation. Artificial Intelligence, crypto, blockchain, metaverse, NFTs are welcomed in this category.
  5. Tourism Education: despite representing 10% of the world’s jobs before Covid-19, tourism has faced a challenge in terms of skills development. Indeed, almost 20%3 of the employed people in selected tourism industries in the European Union had less than primary and lower secondary education in 2018. Furthermore, currently, there is no continuous measurement or updated data on skills development and its contribution to creating added value jobs, which are fundamental to advance in this agenda.
  6. Women Empowerment: while employing the largest number of women in most regions of the world, they yet tend to be concentrated in the lowest paid and lowest status jobs in the sector. Startups with a gender focus can be an important contributor to equality.


Participating startups will be assessed according to their:

  • Contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals
  • Ease of value capture via collaboration with the startup
  • Potential business impact
  • Maturity of the product/technology
  • Maturity of the team and the organization
  • Partnership readiness


Benefits for winning startups include but are not limited to:

  • Sponsorship provided by Wakalua to pitch at the UNWTO Demo Day (venue and country tbc);
  • Application through the YouNoodle platform, which facilitates introduction and growth opportunities for startups;
  • Access to 90+ Venture Capitalists, Top Corporations and 150+ Countries;
  • Become a Member of the UNWTO Innovation Network;
  • Curated mentorship and acceleration programme from our partners;
  • Membership at the Startup Campuses;
  • Potential pilot project with private sector collaborators and institutions;
  • Potential seed funding;
  • Incubation services in Les Roches Spark Innovation Center, including 3 months of accommodation in Crans-Montana, provided by the Sommet Education Group.



Launch 21 April 2022
Deadline for candidatures 15 October 2022
Announcement of winning startups 7 November 2022
Pitching round for winners December 2022



Get ready for your application:

  1. Keep in mind the category you will apply for
  2. Read the Terms & Conditions of the Competition
  3. Read the questions in the Application form
  4. Make an attractive pitch deck in English (no more than 15 slides)
  5. List your web page, social media users and contact information
  6. Once you have all of them ready, fill out the Application form in English and submit it

Once you have all of them ready, fill out the Application form in English

To know more about the challenge and the Terms and Conditions, please visit the following link  https://www.unwto.org/unwto-awake-tourism-challenge

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