The inaugural Welcome Challenge, an annual Global Forum for Hospitality and Travel Industry Innovations, will be held in Georgia on October 24-26.
The event will host 20-25 of the world’s best startups in the hospitality industry and include the most interesting innovative initiatives in this sector. The forum is a Georgian initiative. It will include a start-up competition that allows real, live feedback on product and business ideas and offers ambitious business people the opportunity to pitch their ideas to serious investors.
Forum speakers will include venture capitalists and senior industry executives from the United States, Estonia, Denmark and Japan: Richard McAniff (former Microsoft Executive Vice President), Yrjo Ojasaar (Change Ventures), Jan Rosenbom (Keystones) and Kei Hareyama (Rock Climbing Partners), Dawn Drew (former Executive VP of National Geographic).
On Wednesday, October 17, The Welcome Challenge officially announced the opening of the first annual World Forum for Innovation and Start-Ups in the hospitality field under the patronage of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia and the Georgian National Tourism Administration.
“Remember the three guys that had an idea to rent out their mattresses to guests? Today they have a multi-billion-dollar company called AirBnB,” says Saba Kiknadze, co-founder of the Welcome Challenge Forum.
The motto of the forum is “We Are Looking for the Disrupters of Tomorrow.” It creates a space for start-up creators to interact with speakers and venture capitalists, promoting informal networking opportunities and the formation of more formal mentorship connections. Creators will benefit from professional, high-level feedback on their ideas.
“Some countries promote cheap labor, others their prowess in IT or digital economy. For Georgia, it’s the rapidly emerging start-up scene and an impressive growth in the hospitality and creative sector,” says Gela Suli, co-founder of the Welcome Challenge and frequent jury member in international start-up competitions.
The Global Forum presents itself as “the annual highlight of a series of regional start-up events in the hospitality and tourism field which take place all over the world.” The forum brings together winners of regional start-up competitions from around the world and puts them in front of an international jury, comprised of American, Estonian, Danish, and Georgian business people, who will also serve as mentors in consultation sessions with participating teams.
Earlier this summer, CBC Georgia and Georgia’s Innovations and Technology Agency successfully hosted a Caucasus and Central Asia Regional start-up event for the hospitality industry in Georgia’s emerging Black Sea resort town of Anaklia.
In June, Dimitry Kumsishvili, First Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, and the organizers of “Welcome Challenge” announced the dates for the event. They highlighted the growing dynamics of Georgia as a tourism destination. Georgia was chosen as host country due to its popularity among tourists and the continually accelerating growth of that popularity.
The winners at the Global Forum will receive grants of up to 15,000 Euros and sign contract agreements with potential investors. Ahead of the forum, Boot Camps were held in Zugdidi and Anaklia, where several start-ups were selected to attend the Global Forum and participate in the competition.
The event will be held within the scope of Check in Georgia with support from UNWTO.