Lightning Lab Tourism

What is it?


Using solutions that feature more of New Zealand at all times of the year

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.


Creating positive social and economic impact through authentic cultural experiences. 

Cultural tourism has a positive social and economic impact. It helps establish and reinforce identity and it helps preserve New Zealand’s cultural and historical heritage. It can also facilitate harmony and understanding among people, leading to greater cultural awareness.

Ventures who are selected for this theme will be working to increase the positive impact tourism has on their people, aiming share their cultural values with visitors in an authentic, meaningful way.

Creating mechanisms that help tourism operators manage their impact on the natural world and our communities. 

New Zealand tourism provides a huge economic boost to regions, as well as creating hundreds of jobs in the industry. Despite this, there are concerns that crowds and tourism operations can leave a heavy footprint on the air, land, water, and communities of New Zealand.

Ventures in this theme will be creating solutions that help us manage these impacts and showcase the resulting stories of positive change.

Informing the tourism industry with better data and insights

Data is essential for tourism operators and policymakers to attract visitors to new places in off-peak times. In the tourism industry, we now have access to larger and broader data sets than ever before. 

Ventures chosen for this theme will generate valuable data from new sources. They will provide solutions that use data to deliver critical insights about visitor movements and preferences to tourism operators, regional tourism organisations and policy makers.

Experimenting with creative new events and attraction ideas for one of the most creative corners of the world.  

Central New Zealand is made up of some of New Zealand’s best scenery, natural attractions and creative workforce. Wellington Airport and Wellington NZ want to work closely with the ventures who are selected for this theme to help create new events or attractions that draw more people to central New Zealand.

Key Dates

4 Nov 2019

Applications Open

Jan 2020

2020 Roadshow

Feb 2020

Applications Close

Mar 2020

Teams Announced

30 Mar 2020

Bootcamp Week

2019 Teams

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.

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