Portugal: Travel Startup Hub
In an environment of global competition within the travel and tourism sector, the ability of destinations and companies to reinvent and improve their competitiveness is crucial to ensuring their success.
The competitiveness of business activities, and tourism in particular, depends especially on new ideas, to make things different and better.
Therefore, the momentum of the entrepreneurial sector is an essential factor for the competitiveness of national tourism.
Today, entrepreneurship and innovation are two decisive drivers in the success of any industry. Entrepreneurship is, nowadays, a decisive economic force in creating employment, both in emerging and advanced economies.
Being an entrepreneur means having the tenacity, the perseverance, to transform an idea into a business even when, from the outset, not all the needed resources are in place to do so.
Tourism offers a vast field for entrepreneurial activities. In the competitive environment we see today in this sector, the biggest challenge that motivates entrepreneurs is the constant improvement of the ability to attract and retain clients.
These challenges exist all throughout the value chain. They include the need to systematically reinvent the experience at the destination and involve the solution of complex problems of interoperability between information systems and business platforms.
Entrepreneurship is a factor in the renewal of the tourism offer, the creator of qualified and geographically distributed employment. But from a global perspective, the technological sector of tourism is also important, not only because it enhances the development of our tourism competitiveness, but also because it projects our ability to export knowledge.
Even if it is primarily a spontaneous process, the importance of entrepreneurship requires the development of active public policies that favour its development.
In order to support its growth, it is necessary to act with concerted effort in three areas:
The first relates to favouring the creation of entrepreneurship ecosystems, communities formed by entrepreneurs, investors and mentors who gather knowledge and experience and enable the combination of small ideas to create bigger ones, who help so that not everyone makes the same mistakes, who mobilise knowledge so that first steps can be taken.
A second area is the creation of conditions for access to capital. Fast access, and in conditions that are advantageous for financing instruments, including private investment, especially in the form of risk capital, may mean the difference between the success or failure of these initiatives.
Finally, a third area pertains to the need to develop an entrepreneurial culture. Portugal is an entrepreneurial country. It is essential, especially in the system of education and training, that a framework is developed that promotes this innate ability and gives it an operational perspective.
This approach will encourage innovation in the Portuguese tourism sector, while also promoting a more sustainable management of the tourism development process in Portugal, improving the quality of service provided to tourists and contributing to a more efficient management of resources.
Following Government guidelines, Turismo de Portugal (Tourism of Portugal) launched the Tourism 4.0 programme, which seeks to promote innovation in the Tourism value chain, supporting the development of new business ideas, the development and experimentation of projects and the stimulation of an entrepreneurial culture in the sector, supported by financial incentives that create new and innovative tourism services.
Within this context, a national protocol was established with more than three dozen incubators from all over the country and a €1 million investment, creating the necessary conditions to incubate startups and develop new business ideas related to the tourism sector.
Today, we have more than a dozen acceleration programmes underway throughout the country, developed by a network of acceleration and incubation structures that support the creation and development of new tourism projects.
These programmes involve more than 340 startups that develop projects in the areas of consumer technologies, new services, new business models and new management support tools.
Also within the context of the Tourism 4.0 programme, the foundation is currently being laid for the creation of a Centre of Tourism Innovation, both as a vehicle for supporting the digital transformation of the sector as well as its establishment as a global innovation hub.
NEST – Centre for Tourism Innovation will have as its mission to promote innovation in the Tourism value chain, supporting the development of new business ideas, the development and experimentation of projects and the empowerment of companies in the areas of innovation and the digital economy.