IDB Lab launches innovation challenge to revitalize tourism sector in 15 countries

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WASHINGTON, USA – The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), through its innovation laboratory IDB Lab and in collaboration with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO ), is seeking to identify business models to transform and revitalize the tourism sector. To this end, it is launching an innovation challenge to which both public and private sector organizations may apply until July 31.

The challenge  aims to identify innovations in two categories: development of the tourism labor force, which needs to acquire new digital skills for the recovery phase, and environmental sustainability, which includes implementing waste management measures through circular economy models as well as climate-smart agricultural practices.

IDB Lab will consider public and private sector candidates to implement the project in the following 15 countries: The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Requests for non-reimbursable financing for technical assistance can go from US$250,000 to US$500,000. In the case of loans, amounts can range from US$500,000 to US$2,000,000. Applicants will be expected to contribute with at least 50 percent of the project’s total budget.

According to the UNWTO, the tourism sector is among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak. Before the current pandemic, tourism was one of the world’s largest economic sectors, supporting one out of every ten jobs (319 million) worldwide and accounting for 10.4 percent of global GDP.

In the 15 countries selected for this contest, the average contribution of tourism to GDP is 16.4 percent. On average, tourism accounts for US$1 out of every US$6 contributed to GDP. The industry is also vital for employment generation in these countries, with an average contribution of 17.9 percent. Tourism’s share of total exports is also significant—in 8 of the 15 countries it represents more than 20 percent of exports.

The sector is highly resilient and, in the past, has survived unexpected challenges through collaboration and innovation among stakeholders. The widespread emergency triggered by COVID-19 provides a unique chance for the tourism industry and its closely linked supply chains to embrace digital transformation and stimulate innovation ecosystems in the public and private sectors. Innovation can help the industry get back on track and emerge from this crisis ready to grow again.

Those eligible to participate in this Challenge include entrepreneurs, startups, NGOs, social ventures, public innovation agencies, and other organizations specialized in and knowledgeable of the tourism sector.

The Challenge´s schedule, evaluation criteria, and selection process can be found here.  Applications can be submitted until July 31.

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