Calling all tourism-based social enterprises

Calling all tourism-based social enterprises

Booking.com's three-week programme in Amsterdam offers coaching, collaboration and cash

Travel fare aggregator Booking.com has announced a three-week accelerator programme in Amsterdam for social enterprise scale-ups, plus a €2-million (77.3 million baht) fund for innovative non-profit projects in sustainable tourism.

The 2018 Booking Booster Programme is a three-week accelerator in Amsterdam for social enterprise scale-ups in sustainable tourism. Booking.com will also award €2 million in grants to startups through its Booking Booster.

The company also announced Booster Labs, a series of short, regionally focused weekend programmes that will run through 2018 and are dedicated to giving early-stage startups in sustainable tourism the insights, tools and skills needed for growth.

The Booking Cares Fund, a second €2-million grant programme, will champion individual non-profit change-makers in sustainable tourism to strengthen local communities, preserve and promote culture, protect natural resources and spread tourism activities more evenly.

For the 2018 Booking Booster Programme, Booking.com will select and invite a small group of social enterprises in the sustainable tourism sector that are ready to scale their business plans to a three-week accelerator programme in Amsterdam next May.

The programme will consist of a series of lectures, hands-on workshops and coaching sessions, culminating in a final pitch to receive a grant of up to €500,000 from Booking.com's €2-million fund.

All participating social enterprises will also receive several months of ongoing mentoring and coaching from Booking.com experts, as well as opportunities to collaborate with Booking.com on potential innovation initiatives and experiments to help accelerate the enterprises' future growth.

"The Booking Booster, our new Booking Booster Labs initiative and the Booking Cares Fund have all been specially designed to support important, innovative players in different sectors throughout the entire sustainable tourism ecosystem," said Gillian Tans, chief executive of Booking.com.

"By identifying, funding and mentoring early-stage startups, social enterprises scale-ups and the non-profit projects and change-makers from universities, governments and NGOs that bring them all together, we can help make an even more meaningful impact. We can empower people and organisations to affect real change to help further a healthy and sustainable future for thousands of destinations all around the world."

The programme opened for applications this week.

In order to help foster and encourage entrepreneurial startups in sustainable tourism at the very earliest stages of their development, Booking.com is introducing the Booster Labs to provide startups with the insights, tools and skills they need to grow and increase their impact.

In Booster Labs, a group of 10-15 startups will participate over the course of a weekend in hands-on workshops and lectures presented by experts in startup growth and sustainable tourism.

The startups will be paired with Booking.com mentors, who will provide guidance and support in exploring growth opportunities.

The weekend programmes culminate with each startup pitching a proposed roadmap to a jury of industry experts to win grants between €10,000 and €25,000 from a separate fund specifically set up for the Booster Labs.

The first Booster Lab weekend took place in Barcelona. The next will take place in Tel Aviv from March 1 to 3, 2018. The Tel Aviv experience opens for applications on Dec 11.

For the Booking Cares Fund, Bookings.com is looking for entrepreneurs from a wide variety of backgrounds -- including higher education, government and NGOs -- that have ground-breaking, innovative projects to support.

Leaders with bold, ambitious ideas to truly transform the sustainable tourism industry will be awarded grants ranging from €100,000 to €250,000 based on their grant applications.

Entries will be judged based on the project's potential to produce meaningful, scalable change. The projects must be backed by data and be able to produce measurable results.

The Booking Cares Fund opened for applications this week.

In helping travellers to explore and experience more than 120,000 unique destinations all over the world, Booking.com also seeks to contribute to the ongoing health of these same destinations so that future generations can continue to enjoy them for years to come.

The Booking Booster, Booking Booster Labs initiative and the Booking Cares Fund further this mission of making a positive impact globally.

Booking Booster, Booster Labs and the Booking Cares Fund will complement Booking.com's internal volunteer programme, Booking Cares, whereby employees have long partnered with local organisations on projects that help improve destinations worldwide.

Together, these initiatives make up and further expand Booking.com's Booking Cares commitment.

The increasing concern with tech startups comes as Booking.com moves to penetrate Asian markets, especially China, by developing technologies like artificial intelligence and expanding the company's offices.

Recently, Booking.com's parent company, Priceline, invested close to US$450 million (14.7 billion baht) in Chinese e-commerce firm Meituan Dianping.

As online travel agencies become increasingly popular in Asia-Pacific, Booking.com and Agoda (also owned by Priceline) are spending on experience projects to boost their brand name and integrate local technology and workforces.

Established in 1996 in Amsterdam, Booking.com has grown from a small Dutch startup to one of the largest travel e-commerce companies in the world.

Part of the Priceline Group, Booking.com now employs more than 15,000 people in 70 countries.

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