Lightning Lab Tourism

What is it?

We’re building a sustainable tourism industry in New Zealand

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. 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.


Informing the tourism industry with better data and insights

Data is essential for tourism operators and policymakers to make informed decisions. In the tourism industry, we now have access to larger and broader data sets than ever before. We will have programme partners who can amalgamate, host and help analyze data for the ventures in the programme. Ventures chosen for this theme will provide solutions that can optimise currently available data and insights for industry, operators and regional tourism organisations.

Achieving visitor dispersal

Government and operators are interested in finding ways to encourage the dispersal of visitors across New Zealand, both geographically and seasonally. Encouraging dispersal of tourists can take pressure off tourism hotspots, help preserve Aotearoa’s natural treasures, and create new opportunities for local economies. Ventures chosen for this theme will provide solutions that can target and incentivise tourists to visit more underutilised areas of New Zealand in off-peak times.

Achieving value over volume

New Zealand has been on a long journey to grow its tourism industry by increasing the value derived from each tourist to our country rather than just increasing the number of tourists. In order to be sustainable, we must attract the types of tourists who will value authentic experiences and help them continue their New Zealand experience long after they have left our shores. Ventures chosen for this theme will provide solutions that can better target high-value tourists, help provide authenticity mechanisms to differentiate high-value tourism offerings and help tourism providers extend tourists’ visitor experiences through export of NZ goods.

Understanding New Zealand’s visitors

Human behaviour is complex and dependant on a vast range of factors. Travel decisions reflect this complexity. For the tourism industry to continue to flourish and develop long-lasting relationships with our visitors, we must move beyond visitor satisfaction surveys to understand what drives visitors based on their actions. Ventures chosen for this theme will provide solutions that help tourism providers and policymakers better understand visitor wants and needs through new and novel ways.

ChristchurchNZ Team

In addition to the four themes, we are looking for one team to work closely with ChristchurchNZ to help them increase visitor nights in Christchurch. This team will have full access to the staff, resources and facilities at ChristchurchNZ.


The trip is in your hands

Millennials use travel influencers and social media as their main source for travel inspiration, but travel blogs and social media are not designed for use while on a travel trip nor do they make it easy to book.

So how do travellers book trustworthy, authentic and easy-to-follow trips?

AirGuides is a marketplace where travellers can book unique trips, curated by vetted writers, bloggers and local experts. Each trip is jam-packed with personal recommendations and insider knowledge, and the Airguides app gives travellers the flexibility to follow the trip at their own pace.

A different way to discover

Travel search results can be highly commercially driven and generic, while ratings platforms cater to the masses rather than individual interests. On top of this, smaller tourism service providers often can’t compete with the high costs of promotion larger outfits put towards advertising.

So how can travellers find and share experiences more tailored to their individual interests? And how can small-to-medium tourism providers gain access to a wider audience?

Breadcrumbs is a platform where travellers can share their experiences, from the cool things they do to the places to do them and the companies making it possible, with aspiring travellers looking for inspiration and recommendations to match their interests, and service providers can advertise directly to a market with interest in their offerings. And for each experience – or ‘Crumb’ – shared, Breadcrumbs offsets a portion of travellers’ impact by planting a native tree.

Making the New Zealand road trip more sustainable

Rising accommodation prices and the appeal of freedom and flexibility lead many budget travellers to plan road trips in New Zealand. However, insufficient facilities for vehicle-based campers can negatively impact the environment and visitors’ experiences.

How can the use of recreational vehicles become a more sustainable and reliable travel option for explorers on a road trip? Patch is exploring the use of sustainable facilities for road trippers, on beautiful private rural land.

Hidden gems ready to be discovered.

Visitors often use Christchurch as a gateway to further travels. They arrive in Christchurch, hang around for a few hours and then move on. But what if we could change this? What if we could prove that there’s plenty to see, if you know where to look?

Amiki offers a Z-to-A catalogue of all the special spots that make Christchurch unique – from heritage sites, natural oasis in the middle of the city or gastronomic delicacies.

Powering positive change.

Travelling more sustainably and with less impact on the environment is fastly becoming a key incentive for many travellers. Yet some of the best ways to explore a new country can be by road trip.

So how can tourists embark on their journeys of discovery on the roads in a more environmentally-friendly fashion? PowerTrip is addressing how more sustainable transportation such as electric vehicles (EVs) can be more confidently integrated within the tourism industry, concentrating on the support network required to enhance their driving range.

Connecting local drivers and guides with the visitors.

Driving in a foreign country can be stressful – not knowing where to turn, trying to follow road signs or find the next place of interest and all the while trying to enjoy the journey with your travel companions.

Have you ever wished you could take your eyes off the road and simply enjoy the scenery? Road GURU provides travellers with local Driver Guides and Vehicles so that they can enjoy their holiday without unnecessary stress. For drivers, Road GURU is the easiest way to market their services and spend more time focusing on guiding without worrying about the admin.

Regional Visitor Insight Dashboard.

Existing data collection methods such as CAM, IVA and IVS do not provide sufficient insights to fully inform the South Island’s Regional Tourism Organisations (RTOs). These RTOs require more data on three key insights: who’s visiting their region, what are they doing and how satisfied are they. This data does not currently exist, leading to missed opportunities to improve and develop existing products and services.

The SOUTH Project would like to develop a new data collection system called the Regional Visitor Insight Dashboard. This dashboard will provide data on regional tourism activity to address the aforementioned three key insights. The data will need to be collected in a consistent, cost-effective and sustainable way that can be used by all members of the SOUTH Project.

How can adventurous travellers be confident they can make real connections and explore the history and culture of a place off the beaten track?

Stay Native is concentrating on sharing authentic indigenous experiences in Aotearoa New Zealand with travellers from all over the world, with hosts from all walks of life and experiences across culture, food, places and history to make every trip unique

News and data-driven intelligence for the tourism industry

From sales and salaries to market share and industry performance… Benchmarking across the tourism industry isn’t as transparent as it could be.

How can tourism operators working in New Zealand stay abreast of the developments affecting our biggest export earner?

Tourism Ticker is a media, data and analysis service providing insights to the tourism industry. From relevant news to profiles and data on products, people and businesses operating in the sector, the Ticker aims to help boost industry productivity by providing greater transparency and actionable data-driven intelligence.

Improving regional tourism by connecting tourists with conservation initiatives in  remote areas.

MBIE’s Voluntourism Project intends to address two main issues: increasing opportunities for voluntourism and improving regional dispersal. The Project seeks to improve regional tourism dispersal by connecting tourists with conservation initiatives in remote, low-tourism areas.

The voluntourism project is a collaboration between MBIEWayfare and Squawk Squad.

Key Dates

22 JAN

Applications Open


Market Validation Course


Applications Close


Selection Day

20 MAY

Programme Starts


Demo Day


Foundation Partners
Industry Partners
Programme Sponsors
Programme Supporters

Are you interested in supporting Lightning Lab Tourism? Let’s chat.