UNWTO’s Global Rural Tourism Startup Competition

Deadline: 1-Jul-21
UNWTO invites applications for the Global Rural Tourism Startup Competition to accelerate Rural Development through Tourism.

The competition aims to bring together all entrepreneurs who are deploying models that positively contribute to the planet, people and prosperity or technology that can be applied to the sustainable development of tourism in rural areas in its three pillars – economic, social and environmental.

It seeks the most disruptive ideas that will enable a change in the ways of travelling to and in rural areas as well as accelerating the diversification of tourism products, market access and improving the competitiveness of rural destinations, the valorization and preservation of natural and cultural heritage and their integration into the tourism value chain, social inclusion and the empowerment of women and youth and the sustainable management of these destinations.

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.

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 communities, their 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 Challenge

  • Domestic tourism has shown positive signs in many markets since people tend to travel closer. Travellers go for ‘staycations’ or vacations close to home.
  • New concerns
  • Health & Safety measures and cancellation policies are consumers’ main concerns.

Get away

  • Nature, Rural Tourism and Road Trips have emerged as popular travel choices due to travel limitations and the quest for open-air experiences.
  • Last minute
  • Last-minute bookings have increased due to volatility of pandemic-related events and the travel restrictions.

Younger travellers most resilient

  • Change in demographics – travel recovery has been stronger among younger segments. ‘Mature’ travellers and retirees will be the most impacted segments.

More responsible

  • Sustainability, authenticity and localhood – travellers have been giving more importance to creating a positive impact on local communities, increasing looking for authenticity.

The entrants in this competition will be divided into four categories:
PEOPLE – Leaving no one behind

  • Legal persons that are developing and promoting a project with a large transformative and social innovation component with the potential to promote social inclusion and equality by channelling and expanding the benefits of tourism among the economy and communities, empowerment and improvement of socio-economic conditions of the project environment to contribute to the well-being of residents, as well as projects with potential to improve the governance and sustainable management of rural tourism in the destination

PLANET – Building Back Better

  • Legal persons that are developing and promoting a project with a large transformative and environmental innovation component: potential to help minimize the impacts caused by activities related to tourism development, protect natural resources and contribute to the fight against climate change

PROSPERITY – Creating Opportunities to Grow

  • Legal persons that are developing and promoting a project with a large transformative and economic innovation component for the development of the value chain, competitiveness and enhancement of rural tourism destinations in the market, opening them up to new source markets and improving their positioning and promotion

PROPULSION – Deep Tech for rural development

  • Legal persons that are developing and promoting a project centred around the use of new technologies or innovations for competitiveness and enhancement of rural tourism destinations through the application of new technology.

Awards for winners

  • The two winning projects will be eligible to attend the General Assembly
  • Participation in the UNWTO pilot project “Best Tourism Villages of the World”
  • Becoming part of the UNWTO innovation network
  • Those selected for the recognition in the four categories will gain global visibility through UNWTO social media channels.


  • 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

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. Projects must be aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations, with the introduction of technological elements, and with a focus on one (or more) of the following areas:

  • The management of destinations or the private management of solutions / products / services developed around or for tourism in rural environments
  • The configuration of the supply side, seeking a balance between sustainable development and the profitability of the project, and maximizing its positive impacts
  • The connection with the market and the user experience in all phases of the journey.

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

For more information, visit https://www.unwto.org/unwto-global-rural-tourism-startup-competition#RuralTourismChallenge

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s