In 2019, YHA New Zealand is investing in Lightning Lab — NZ's first tourism accelerator programme, which cherry-picks some of the country's most exciting young travel businesses in a bid to grow NZ's largest export industry.
This three-month project turbo-charges 10 early-stage ventures before they pitch NZ's top angel investors for funds in August — and YHA is involved every step of the way, from financial support and selecting the start-ups in May to mentoring and expert advice over the next 12 weeks.
"But almost more importantly, it exposes our key staff to innovative thinking across multiple different areas."
On top of helping select the teams and advising them over the next three months, YHA will participate in Lightning Lab's open speaker sessions for stakeholders and teams, learning from these industry experts as well as the energetic young businesses tackling the challenges faced by the NZ tourism industry in the 21st century.
Exposure to the innovative thinking, drive and processes behind accelerating a start-up in 2019 is invaluable to YHA, an organisation dating way back to 1932.
YHA staff will rub shoulders with the brains behind cutting-edge start-ups like Stay Native — which connects visitors with the indigenous culture, food, places and history of Aotearoa — and Road Guru, an app that hooks travel agents up with local driver guides.
"Close collaboration with the programme organisers is central to our investment, as the intent is to witness and learn from the processes these start-ups go through," says Brian Westwood, Sales and Marketing Manager.
"We don't know if it will work, but we think it's worth a try. We're investing time and energy and keeping an open mind.
"Listening and learning, we believe, will be as valuable as the financial long-term benefits themselves."