Tourism Design Accelerator

Revitalising New Zealand’s tourism sector

Tourism Design Accelerator cohort
What we did together

12-months coaching through our Accelerator startup programme

Key Skills

Lean, Agile, Market validation

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“Tourism Accelerator launches to help startup founders re-shape the
tourism industry.” – Tourism Export Council


Launched as part of the COVID-19 recovery, the 2020 Tourism Design Accelerator – a 12-week mentor-driven programme – worked to support founders in designing solutions to some of the tourism industry’s most pressing challenges.

Tourism globally has been hit hard by COVID-19. Closing doors and cancelling trips highlighted systemic troubles within the tourism industry – and a need to create a more resilient and sustainable sector.

New Zealand has been a travel destination for adventurers and landscape lovers alike (not to mention Shire-fans). And Wellington is no stranger to testing new initiatives. Co-hosted with Tourwriter, a Wellington-based travel-tech company that brought tourism industry expertise and support to the participating teams, the programme focused on ‘better travel’.

“When you have innovation and energy, paired with some disciplined, there aren’t many problems you can’t solve.”

Simon Hertnon, Entrepreneur in residence

How we did it

To help launch the programme, Creative HQ ran a hackathon-style event – the ‘Tourism Design Challenge’. During the challenge, 96 participants joined from around Aotearoa and formed 5 teams. After pitching to a panel of industry experts, alongside Creative HQ’s startup team, the most promising teams from the challenge were invited to join the accelerator.

The 12-week Tourism Design Accelerator then ran from October 2020 – 18 February 2021. 7 teams, including an industry team from Tourwriter, undertook the programme which was designed to operate virtually, with weekly group and individual activities.

The Tourism Design Accelerator, in its hybrid model, saw the development of an online library of self-led innovation resources – with support on hand from the programme team, where necessary.

The programme included:

  • Weekly meetings with an Entrepreneur-in-Residence.
  • Mentoring with tourism leaders, and leaders in other complementary fields, where participants received business advice on creating sustainable business models, testing concepts with audiences and more.
  • Specialist workshops and speakers from tech companies to legal and financial experts, to founders sharing their journeys.

The result

The Tourism Design Accelerator concluded on 18 February 2021. Due to changing COVID restrictions, Tourism’s showcase was run virtually, attracting 172 attendees to join the pitch sessions, one-on-ones with the teams and a virtual panel.

On the same day, three of our seven teams pitched in a co-hosted Angel HQ Investment evening.

Since the accelerator drew to a close:

  • 2 teams have gone on to raise $250,000 to grow their businesses.
  • 3 have a focus on further validation and refining their product in market.
  • 2 have a focus on distribution and partnerships.

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