Middle East travel and tourism community must invest in start-ups to ensure continued spirit of innovation

Middle East travel and tourism community must invest in start-ups to ensure continued spirit of innovation

Travel and tourism, as I’ve said before, have had a rough ride during the last two years. While Expo 2020 showed that the appetite for travel and leisure is still there, things have changed pretty rapidly and the sector must now adapt to survive. 

People have missed travel. There’s been a surge in staycations, glamping, and short-distance weekends away. 

We’ve also seen a rise in more environmentally aware travel and regenerative tourism – where your stay has zero impact on the environment. 

And technology underpins modern travel, from access to the amount of carbon your journey produces, to keyless entry, app-driven activities and dynamic pricing engines. 

Younger travellers crave experiences over a week lying on a beach, and expect to book sustainable, yet off-the-beaten-path trips with ease online. 

New trends are linked to innovation, which is key to the next era of travel. And innovation is driven by start-ups – bold, disruptive ideas that challenge the status quo, bring new ideas to the table and perhaps even make us re-think how we’ve always done things. 

The Middle East might be blessed with year-round good weather, endless soft, sandy beaches and world-class travel infrastructure, but competition is high, and there needs to be innovation and a degree of imagination and creativity in the sector to encourage people to visit. 

I’ve examined some of the start-ups in travel and tourism, and the future certainly looks bright. 

For starters, how about a health and safety tracker super-app to help travellers ensure their safety? Utilising artificial intelligence and machine learning, tracking and warnings for severe health, unrest, and climatic events have now been developed. In the post-pandemic era, the need for on-the-fly monitoring of health and safety is paramount. 

The 2021 Business Travel Show highlighted some sector innovators worth investigating. Firstly, the Climate Neutral Group was highlighted for its efforts in helping sector companies move along the road to carbon neutrality. Its TravelScan software analyses the impact of flights and helps reduce them. 

At a time when corporate travel is only just beginning to bounce back to something approaching normality, PayPense, a Germany-based travel payment and expenses business, removes cash advances by allowing travel purchases to be billed to and paid for by the company. 

PayPense also plans to launch carbon footprint accounting, calculating the greenhouse gas emissions of travel bookings and payments made via its platform. It also provides a personal CO2 footprint report. 

According to Accenture, the global professional services company, the Middle East attracts more than 60 million tourists a year. The company, which opened a tourism innovation hub in Dubai in 2020, is helping sector start-ups bring their ideas to fruition. The hub promotes use of cutting-edge technologies such as AR, IoT, Machine Learning and AI. 

Accenture predicts a 2% growth in the tourism sector’s contribution to regional GDP by 2024, valuing it at $29bn. The company also suggests there are more than 60 travel start-ups headquartered in the Middle East. 

Leveraging the power of technology and innovation are the keys to success. Consumers expect a more seamless, personalised experience than ever before, from the moment they leave home. 

I believe that truly innovative companies in the travel sector will combine high technology, good data and the need for transparent sustainability practices to make unbeatable products and services. 

Innovation in travel is more crucial than ever, and technology will play a pivotal role in market recovery and transformation. We should all keep abreast of start-up activity, and do our bit to support them in making the world a better place to travel. 


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