YHA is one of Lightning Lab Tourism’s investors, actively supporting our tourism cohort throughout their journey. We asked Brian Westwood, YHA’s Marketing and Sales Manager, to share why YHA supports Lightning Lab Tourism and why big players in the tourism industry should support the development of new ventures.


A collective benefit

Nobody owns a travel customer. Especially independent travellers.

New Zealand is a travel destination suited to free independent travellers (FITs). They make up the bulk of our holiday arrivals and determine their own itineraries, accommodation choices, activities and general spend. It’s an industry worth $15 billion, and there is room for more businesses to thrive.

Understanding the connectedness of the travel industry underpins those that are successful. Lifting the performance of the whole industry, working well together and sharing success is how individual businesses grow in this sector. This is the philosophy YHA New Zealand embraces as it invests in the Tourism Lightning Lab accelerator program. Supporting the development of new ideas into successful businesses is one way to help grow overall demand and that has a flow-on effect for YHA too.


It’s not philanthropy, but it is a longer term view

This is not a philanthropic approach. There’s definitely direct gain to be had outside of the financial return on investment. Being able to engage at the early stages of these new businesses opens up more doors and opportunities to build incremental revenue and potentially diversify into areas that fit with our own mission.

New Zealand is a small country and, like most industries, the tourism sector is filled with a network of people who go back decades. They often jump from business to business, but remain committed to the industry. Connecting early and lending a hand goes a long way to boost these long term relationships. To quote a modern cliché, never underestimate the value of giving it forward.


Social good

This particular programme also has a high degree of social good ideas which align well with what YHA stands for.  From connecting travellers to our culture and teaching them about our communities, to travelling in a low carbon fashion ((YHA is a carboNZero certified organisation). There are ideas for engaging EV travellers, mentoring and growing more grassroots Maori enterprises and improving industry research so we can collectively make better decisions. These businesses will serve our industry and our communities well if they are successful, and that strengthens our commitment to them.  


Organisational lessons

Alongside the financial gain, there’s also a lot to be learned from startups for organisations like ours. We’ve been around for 87 years and while we have adapted to new market demands we still have established processes, habits and ways of thinking which should be challenged.

There’s nothing like working with enthusiastic, energetic people, looking at the world in a completely different way and being very open about their challenges, problems and thoughts on the solutions. It is refreshing to an old head like mine.

Investing in the Tourism Lightning Lab is a win-win investment in every sense. It’s good for the industry, it’s good for the participants, investors gain knowledge, connections and a share in the success of the programme. Most of all, it’s good for New Zealand. Tourism is our largest export earner, it touches every community, contributes billions of new tax dollars every year that supports our society. We are all involved with the travel customer, at some level, so everything we do that brings us new business, makes us more efficient and more sustainable, while looking after that customer, is worth investing in.


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