Booking.com entered the accelerator space last year, but with a twist: The startups joining its Booking Booster Programme would all focus on sustainable tourism.


"Once a small Dutch startup ourselves, the idea of launching an accelerator program to share our expertise and learning with the next generation of entrepreneurs was something that we have been very passionate about pursuing for quite a while," said Marianne Gybels, global corporate social responsibility manager at Booking.com, a Booking Holdings company.

The three-week accelerator program, which recently announced the 10 startups joining it this year, was a natural complement to the Booking Cares Volunteer Program, which connects employees with local organizations on projects to benefit the community, Gybels said.

"We were looking for an initiative where we could combine our pedigree as a tech company with our growing sense of responsibility to create a more healthy and sustainable future for the global travel industry," she said.

The accelerator's goal is not just to give back to startups but to effect change.

"There are definitely other accelerators out there looking at topics associated with ecotourism," Gybels said. "But when we were evaluating the scope of our program we did see sustainable tourism as an area with a great deal of untapped potential where we could have a truly meaningful impact."

She is pleased with the progress the accelerator's startups have made thus far, citing as an example Seabin, a floating trash bin meant for ports and marinas that collects floating rubbish. Bins are actively being distributed around the world.

Gybels also pointed to the likes of Desolenator, which will install its first solar-powered desalination device in a hotel this month; the expansion of Authenticook, which connects travelers and locals who want to share meals. It has attracted hundreds of women to its platform and empowered them with income.

She also cited the Chinese website Backstreet Academy, which helps micro-entrepreneurs and artists in Southeast Asia benefit from tourism.

The travel industry is an attractive space for startups, Gybels said, and it presents a number of opportunities going forward.

"As new and emerging technologies like [artificial intelligence], virtual reality and voice recognition create new types of experiences and possibilities for consumers, the applications for travel startups are endless," she said. "These rapidly expanding opportunities and the continued growth of the global travel industry as a whole are definitely contributing to the increased interest in the space, particularly when it comes to the number of new incubators and accelerators in travel."
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