Tourism Design Accelerator 2020

Powered by Lightning Lab and Tourwriter

What is it?

Tourism Design Accelerator 2020 is a four-month mentorship programme that supports startup founders who are designing solutions to make travel better for travellers, suppliers, and the environment.

Better travel means a shift away from aggregated travel – the easy-to-book, frequent, low-value, one-size-fits-all style of travel that dominates today. Better travel is a move towards a less frequent but more personalised, deliberately-planned, higher value style of travel.

Better travel would mean:

travellers can conveniently find, book, and experience a far wider array of all-scale travel services that suit their individual preferences

suppliers can conveniently take bookings from well-suited travellers without haemorrhaging margins to banks (and other financial services providers) and online aggregators

environmental impact can be reduced through systematically connecting
and rewarding environmentally-conscious travellers and suppliers

In essence, better travel requires smarter matchmaking, new financial solutions and environmental guardianship.

The Tourism Design Accelerator is also NZ’s first Carbon Positive accelerator programme. We’re proud to announce our partnership with Carbon Click, to take action and reduce the environmental impact of our business.

Why now?

COVID-19 has closed borders and opened minds, radically shifting the way people think about travel. Although the pandemic has delivered the tourism industry its biggest challenge in modern history, New Zealand is perfectly placed to uncover the opportunity that is so often presented by major disruption.

Additionally, the travel industry was already experiencing heavy disruption by overseas-owned aggregators (such as Google) moving into travel retailing and, in many ways, monopolising travellers.

These disruptions have created a significant opportunity for New Zealanders to re-think and re-shape the future of travel. As a nation, we are in a unique and privileged position to be relatively COVID-free, allowing us to build and test solutions locally before scaling globally.


Programme overview

The programme will run from 29 October 2020 to 19 February 2021.

Up to six ventures will be accepted and will work closely with experienced mentors and investors who have built, advised, and sold companies in tourism and other sectors related to the theme of better travel.

Lightning Lab has partnered with Tourwriter, an award-winning Kiwi tourism-tech company that brings knowledge, connections, hands-on mentoring, and investment. As part of their commitment to better travel, Tourwriter is presently developing an online itinerary marketplace that could potentially work in conjunction with solutions developed through the programme.

At the end of the programme, each team will have the opportunity to pitch for cash investment from investors, underwritten to the value of $100,000.

A new model

What’s different from previous accelerator programmes?

Plenty. The world has changed and the team behind Tourism Accelerator 2020 have had to adapt and pivot like so many organisations across New Zealand and the world.

There are five key changes:

The programme will now run from 29 October 2020 to 19 February 2020, with a four-week break over Christmas and New Year’s.

The programme has been reduced from 8–10 teams to 4–6 teams.

Programme team
The programme is being delivered jointly by Lightning Lab and Tourwriter.

The programme is still based in Wellington, but will also be delivered virtually so teams from outside Wellington do not need to relocate.

Investment process
Instead of the normal $20,000 upfront investment per team, each team will be able to pitch at the end of the programme for a minimum pool of $100,000 of investment, along with the opportunity to pitch for further investment with some of the country’s top angel investors and early-stage venture funds.

Better travel targets

How do we make truly personalised travel convenient for travellers and suppliers?

How can we ensure travellers can easily source or create itineraries that suit their interests, travel style, personality, and budget?

How can we relieve pressure from the main attractions and hubs?

How do we make it convenient for our suppliers to keep more of the money tourists spend on their services?

How can we stem and reverse the flow of tourist spend to off-shore global aggregators?

How can we increase the margins for local tourism operators?

How can we use new payment technologies (such as blockchain) and existing services (such as TransferWise) to reduce the financial cost of cross-border transactions?

How do we make it convenient for tourists (domestic and international) to be conscious travellers?

How can we embed the principles of Kaitiakitanga across our entire tourism industry?

How can we measure the impact of a tourist’s entire itinerary?

How can we create carbon-neutral or environmentally-friendly experiences?

How can we provide travellers with clear environmental guardianship data about all tourism offerings?

How can we better disperse tourists to support communities outside the current tourist hotspots?



Āmio is the fastest web application travel planner, instantaneously providing personalised recommendations of local tourism activities to travellers and potential travellers. This app connects users with experiences available “right now” (within a timeframe) and “right here” (within a km radius). 

Amio achieves this by giving travellers different sets of profiling questions, used in conjunction with open data from other parties such as Google Locations.

‘mote is the platform that will connect the remote, freelance, and independent workers of the modern workforce with alternative working spaces. 

Full-time employees are embracing the digital nomad culture, which allows them to take vacations and engage in tourism, while staying connected with their jobs and not taking extended holidays.

By offering alternative working spaces such as taprooms during off-peak hours, a table at a restaurant from 8:00am to 12:00pm, or a hot desk at a co-working space at an hourly rate, ‘mote will boost the revenue of these small businesses, provide extra incentive for foot traffic, and get rid of the uncomfortable ‘how many coffees do I need to order to justify me staying here for another 2 hours’ feeling.

S360 – making sustainability simple. S360’s software will enable tourism operators to easily understand how they can become more sustainable, take action, influence change and measure how well they are doing against a benchmarked standard.

One of many potential applications is to calculate the carbon emissions (as well as other impacts) of an individual traveller’s itinerary. When a tour operator builds a tour and assigns an itinerary item, S360 would instantly calculate and display the carbon emissions for each individual itinerary item. This would encourage the traveller to make better, more sustainable choices and create ripples of change in the industry.


Enrapture-X is focused on bringing to life the next generation of fully-immersive aerial safari tours inside Eight360’s NOVA® VR motion simulator, utilising drones and 3D- VR Goggles at a fraction of the cost of a typical helicopter/airplane safari and without the safety risk. And the best bits: minimal noise pollution and impact on the environment! 

Imagine the Great Walks, such as Milford Sound being closed because of overuse or floodings, but being accessible via this technology.


Excio is a photography community passionate about #PhotographyForGood. It allows individual photographers to exhibit their work and through photography showcase the beauty of the world around us as well as many popular New Zealand destinations and hidden gems. Based in Wellington with the growing number of members, Excio provides an amazing opportunity for collaboration with the New Zealand tourism industry. The unique images from talented photographers will also encourage visitor dispersal to locations otherwise unseen by tourists.


Life’s too short for average holidays, average experiences and average memories.

Here at Roady, we believe all travel needs to be bucket list level, and that no minute on tour should be wasted. Finding cool things to do in new places can be tough. So we’re developing an App that brings unforgettable experiences to the palm of your hand, making it easy to find new adventures, create wish lists to tick off as you go, then share with your mates.  The App is gamified, fun and taps into the addictive notion of ticking things off a list.


The Tourwriter Itinerary Marketplace will connect discerning travellers with local boutique tour operators so they can plan and book tailormade holidays in confidence together, as the global travel industry rebounds from Covid19.

For 16 years Tourwriter products have helped niche inbound tour operators from all over the world streamline their back office process creating efficiencies and driving business profitability. We see an opportunity to help travellers easily discover and connect with these tour operators from far flung lands safely and securely.  Imagine an online travel marketplace that promotes niche travel verticals, in partnership with global media brands and industry associations, allowing these partners to create their own travel channels without becoming travel agents. 

Tourwriter wants to lead the evolution of customisable travel technology enabling niche travel brands to easily access new customers and develop new efficiencies for cross border payments.


We are putting together an experienced and talented team of mentors who will be led by our Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Simon Hertnon. Once the programme is underway, the founder teams will check-in weekly with Simon, who will help founders to determine which mentors they should contact at what time.

We will be adding more mentors over the coming months as we seek to ensure the skills and experience of the mentors best match the needs of the applicants.























Entrepreneur in Residence


Tourism Accelerator Mentors



Tourism Accelerator Mentors (1)



Tourism Accelerator Mentors (2)



Tourism Accelerator Mentors (4)



Key Dates

17 AUGUST 2020

Applications open

7 OCTOBER 2020

Applications close

9 OCTOBER 2020

Shortlist interviews (virtual)

29–30 OCTOBER 2020

Programme starts (in Wellington)

19 DECEMBER 2020–17 JANUARY 2021

Christmas break

19 FEBRUARY 2021

Programme ends