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The tourism sector holds huge business potential for start-ups coming up with new digital business models. That’s why the Hub for Innovation in Tourism is challenging university students to invent the future of the industry.

Sponsored: article published in collaboration with Hub for Innovation in Tourism

How to make tourism sustainable? What can data and IoT do for meeting tourism? And can digitalisation improve the tourist experience? These are just some of the questions university students have been working on in challenges from the Hub for Innovation in Tourism (HIT).

“We want to put tourism on the radar of those who will develop the solutions of the future. This applies both to the experience dimension, but also to themes such as green transition and more tech-heavy solutions for the infrastructure of the industry. This is important for the industry, but also holds huge potential for new start-ups,” says Heidi Dahl Larsen, HIT’s secretariat manager.

The tourism challenges are presented in collaboration with the universities AU, CBS, DTU, KU and AAU.

Tourism hackathon at Digital Tech Summit

  • At a hackathon during the Digital Tech Summit, 25 students were challenged to find innovative solutions for tourism based on data and IoT.
  • The winner will receive a cash prize of DKK 10,000 and a savings programme worth DKK 25,000.

Startup drives innovation

In Denmark, there is not yet a strong tradition of researchers and students thinking of the tourism sector as the first consumer of new solutions, but in fact the majority of innovation in the tourism sector globally has been driven by start-ups. And according to Heidi Dahl Larsen, there is still a lot of opportunity, including commercially, in getting the industry to adopt new technologies like AI, IoT and blockchain.

“That’s why we’re also linking up with initiatives at universities where students are already working on innovation and new business ideas. So their first idea may not be a start-up success, but if they’ve seen the potential of the tourism sector, the next one might be,” says Heidi Dahl Larsen.

In addition to allowing students to address concrete challenges, HIT also contributes with trends and tendencies in the industry and sparring from specialists. The winners of each challenge will be offered an extended mentoring programme worth 25,000 DKK, and will also have the opportunity to join HIT’s startup accelerator as a next step.

From study group to startup:

  • A group of students who started their idea for the challenge “Innovation in Engeneering” and have gone on with the idea for the challenge “X-tech” and want to make the idea real in a startup.
  • With their solution, the group wants to make the lives of marinas and boat owners easier by digitalising the ports and bringing them into the modern world.
  • The solution will optimise the port and berths for the benefit of owners and users, help guest sailors to book and find a suitable berth so that their holiday can be spent sailing and, not least, help harbourmasters with day-to-day operations

Ensuring the next generation

In the long run, HIT hopes that working with universities can ensure a generation of knowledge-based start-ups and entrepreneurs that can boost innovation in the sector. And the first challenges have already shown good results.

“We’ve done a lot of challenges and had a lot of students go through them. And the innovation of the ideas we see is crazy. We often ask them; when are you going to turn this into a start-up, because there is so much potential in the ideas they come up with,” says Heidi Dahl Larsen.

The Challenge project will run until June 2023, and the Hub for Innovation in Tourism is still interested in collaborating with more knowledge institutions on the concept.

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