MEDIA RELEASE: Applications for Lightning Lab Tourism are now open

Lightning Lab Tourism aligns with a number of initiatives by industry and government in 2019 and will act as a vehicle to bring breakthrough innovation to the tourism industry


[Wellington, New Zealand, 22 January 2019 ]

Applications are open now for New Zealand’s top Accelerator, Lightning Lab Tourism, which will run from May to August 2019 out of Christchurch International Airport.

Lightning Lab Tourism is a three-month business acceleration programme focused on building a sustainable innovation ecosystem for the future of tourism in New Zealand. The programme will bring together a cohort of early-stage ventures and project teams from the tourism industry who will aim to solve the productivity, cultural, environmental and social challenges for the sector. The accelerator will support tourism ventures to develop and test their products in New Zealand, before competing on a global scale.

Up to ten ventures will be accepted into the programme, gaining access to NZ’s largest network of tourism and hospitality services experts and startup mentors. Programme participants will also have access to a combined tourism database, that will be administered by Qrious to help develop their solutions. Teams will work directly with tourism industry partners and practice market validation and product development methods used by companies like Google, IDEO, and Tesla.

Early-stage ventures can apply to the programme under one of four key themes set by NZ’s tourism industry leaders. The themes are “Informing Us with Better Data and Insights”, “Achieving Visitor Dispersal”, “Achieving Value over Volume” and “Understanding our Visitors”. Details on each theme can be found at At the end of the three months, each venture will have the opportunity to pitch for investment at Demo Day, in front of some of the top angel investors and early-stage venture funds in the country.

Strategic project teams from industry and government will also be able to apply in order to address some of the larger social and economic issues facing the industry as a whole. These teams will work side by side with the early-stage ventures who apply and get accepted into the programme.

“Previous sector-based Lightning Lab programmes have led to innovative new companies such as Sharesies and emhTrade, and have fundamentally influenced policy, strategy and regulations for their respective industries and sector” says Brett Holland, General Manager of Enterprise Innovation at Creative HQ. “Lightning Lab Tourism will help re-emphasise NZ’s leading edge in visitor experience, tourism tech, and our proactive industry engagement with world-beating tourism innovation.”

Lightning Lab Tourism is supported by Callaghan Innovation, Christchurch International Airport, Centrality, Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA), and ChristchurchNZ and delivered by Creative HQ – a member of the Global Accelerator Network. The programme also receives backing and support from a group of innovation-focused New Zealand and multinational companies – including MYOB and Qrious.

Christchurch International Airport’s Chief Aeronautical and Commercial Officer, Justin Watson, says the airport is looking forward to being a unique gateway for innovative startups in working with Lightning Lab participants and the regional tourism economy. “Christchurch Airport, as gateway to the South Island, is considered a leader in addressing regional and seasonal distribution of visitors, through our SOUTH initiative. All 14 regions of the South Island work formally together, so provide an extensive network Lightning Lab participants can access. Bringing all this together adds up to a great opportunity to work with regions on innovative solutions for these core drivers of growth in the sector,” he says.

ChristchurchNZ General Manager – Innovation & Business Growth Richard Sandford is delighted Christchurch is the base for the programme, which will in turn help find innovative solutions to drive more tourists to the vibrant, new city.

“We want innovators and entrepreneurs both locally and nationally to come to our city of exploration and take part in this exciting opportunity. This is a tangible way to tackle problems facing the tourism industry and hopefully bring more visitors to experience all we have on offer here in the gateway to the South Island.”

Chris Roberts, Chief Executive of TIA says “The inaugural Lightning Lab Tourism offers prospective innovators a unique opportunity to turbo-charge New Zealand’s tourism industry. Venture projects will be aligned with our Tourism 2025 & Beyond framework to ignite strong and sustainable growth”.

“TIA is pleased to be supporting this exciting initiative. This is an opportunity to collaborate and address burning issues within the tourism industry where innovative solutions are necessary. Solving these issues will further lift the industry’s ability to create value for the benefit of New Zealand.”

Callaghan Innovation, New Zealand’s innovation agency, is a foundation partner of the programme. Its Startup Manager, Bruce Jarvis, says tourism businesses are confronted with the urgent need to transform and adapt. “Global megatrends are changing what the average traveller demands, while disruptive technologies are turning old models upside down. Lightning Lab Tourism will help the industry thrive with a stronger pipeline of startups that bring innovative solutions to market.”

Andy Higgs, General Manager of Strategic Partnerships at Centrality adds “We are very excited to be involved in this programme and help companies explore decentralised solutions in the tourism industry. The decentralisation of data ownership offers operators an increased share of value capture and an opportunity to provide a more authentic local experience for visitors.”

Tech company MYOB is a programme sponsor of the accelerator and says it is a chance to boost innovation in the sector and strengthen New Zealand’s economy.

“Tourism is now a tech business,” says MYOB country manager Ingrid Cronin-Knight. “If New Zealand wants to move up the tourism value chain, we need to keep innovating and bringing new product, services and processes to market. That’s why the Lighting Lab Tourism Accelerator is so important.”

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