Startup News

Volunteers, Māori tours and storytellers: Meet the startups changing New Zealand’s tourism landscape

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien /

New Zealand

The Stay Native team. Source: Supplied.

After their three-month accelerator program, the graduates of New Zealand’s first Lightning Lab Tourism accelerator are out making their mark on the world. And, whether promoting Māori culture, helping farmers secure some tourist dollars or making electric vehicle use more accessible, all nine are striving to make a positive impact on Kiwi tourism.

The accelerator program, run by innovation program provider Creative HQ and located at Christchurch Airport, is specifically focused on building a sustainable ecosystem for the future of tourism in New Zealand.

It came to a close last month with a showcase event at Christchurch’s town hall, and now the cohort is our in the wild, finding inroads into the tourism industry, and making friends and partnerships along the way.

“There’s been talk of the New Zealand tourism industry slowing down,” Erica Austin, Lightning Lab Tourism program manager, said in a statement.

“Because of that, I think it’s more important than ever that New Zealand fosters innovation in the tourism industry and that’s exactly what Lightning Lab Tourism has been about: providing the support and tools that startups need to ensure they can bring their innovative ideas to market successfully.”

New Zealand

The New Zealand Lightning Lab Tourism accelerator graduates. Source: Supplied.

Meet the first Lightning Lab Tourism accelerator cohort

AirGuides
This marketplace platform invites travellers to book trips hosted by trusted storytellers. The team is gearing up to launch in Southeast Asia and expects to have the product available in three countries soon.

Amiki
This group of founders of Māori, Samoan, English and European heritage are offering alternative tours of Christchurch, with ingrained storytelling and a multicultural twist.

Lichen
Lichen is a matchmaking app connecting socially conscious travellers with volunteer groups that might need their help. This summer, the startup is partnering with New Zealand’s top travel app, CamperMate.

Patch
This startup is working with farmers to help them diversify the use of their land, and earn some tourism revenue. It is currently exploring potential partnerships in the tourism industry.

Power Trip
This app is designed to support drivers of electric vehicles, by predicting their energy consumption before they set off on a journey, and linking them to local businesses where they can charge up along the way.

Road Guru
Road Guru allows visitors to New Zealand to book a vehicle for their trip, with a driver and guide included to show them the sights. Since launching, it has been steadily growing its customer base, after converting a handful of early adopters.

South Project
This venture, headed up by Christchurch Airport and Qrious, has been working on a solution to encourage tourists to travel to, and linger in, New Zealand’s South Island. Currently, the team is seeking feedback from the island’s Regional Tourism Organisations.

Stay Native
Stay Native is a social enterprise startup connecting travellers in New Zealand with locals who can offer a peek into Māori culture. The startup is now seeking investment, and is planning to launch next month, with 20 hosts on the platform.

Tourism Ticker
Headed up by financial and tourism journalists, Tourism Ticker is a publication offering tourism industry news, and keeping readers on top of trends, issues and developments in the sector.

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Stephanie Palmer-Derrien

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien is the editor at StartupSmart. You can contact her at [email protected].