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Looking for New Zealand’s next wild tourism idea

The search is on to find and nurture the next generation of innovative tourism businesses and they may not be what you expect.

Tourism is already the country’s largest industry and it’s expected to grow to an estimated 10 million international visitors annually be 2050. This brings amazing opportunities but also confronting challenges.

Creative HQ general manager innovation services Brett Holland says the Wellington-based Lightning Lab Tourism accelerator will harness New Zealand’s next wild tourism ideas to help shape a sustainable tourism ecosystem.

"People may be sitting on great ideas with great potential that they simply don’t realise have tourism potential."

Brett says tourism isn’t just about traditional channels such as cruise ships or Aotearoa New Zealand’s great walks.

"It can also be a must-do food experience, an out of the ordinary city tour, a way to reduce tourism’s environmental impact, or a new mode of electric transport to get around the city. Basically, if it adds to the visitor experience then it’s got tourism written all over it and we want to hear about it."

RoadGuru, a Lightning Lab Tourism success story from 2019, is a platform for tour guides to register their services and connect with travel agents around the world for job opportunities.

The platform taps into the modern gig economy and providing a hassle-free end-to-end process for independent guides to connect and work with clients. CEO and co-founder Mitchell McLaughlin credits Lightning Lab with their rapid growth.

Their team works from Wellington and Christchurch and in 2020 they’re looking to have a fully automated digital experience for tour operators, a launch into the Australian market and another capital raise.

"We’d been operating for about two years before Lightning Lab and the effect it had was forcing us to be faster. It’s turned years (of developing) into months and now we’re looking at being the fastest growing tour guide platform in New Zealand."

This year's programme director is Aim Wongwan. He has a diverse portfolio of businesses behind him including a platform for sharing academic exemplars and one of the most popular noodle restaurants in Thailand.

Creative HQ programme manager Aaron Power says that Aim is absolutely the right man for the job.

"He has all of the right skills and experience to guide our startups through the accelerator. He brings a fresh perspective and a great ability to challenge the way we think about things."

Lightning Lab Tourism 2020 will be run in Wellington over 12 weeks. The incubator will allow 10 teams of creative thinkers have access to tourism industry knowledge and support as they knuckle and produce working prototypes of their business ideas.

At the end of the 12 weeks teams present their ideas to stakeholders and possible investors in order to secure funding to bring their tourism idea to life.

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