A new organisation launches today (Tuesday) to help Scotland’s beleaguered tourism sector make a sustained recovery driven by technological innovation.
It will build a support network for travel technology pioneers whose ingenuity could help turn the sector around following the devastating impacts of Covid-19.
The venture will create opportunities for businesses, including digital tour operators, online booking providers and companies developing robotic devices that improve the hotel experience.
Traveltech for Scotland will foster an online community of entrepreneurs, promote industry events and create a digital marketplace to encourage growth in the sector.
It builds on the country’s traveltech leadership, demonstrated by pioneers such as flight-booking giant Skyscanner, hotel guest app provider Criton and trip-planning company Whereverly.
The £342,000 initiative – led by the University of Edinburgh and funded via the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise – will tap into Scotland’s research excellence and seek to nurture the country’s tech graduate talent.
Traveltech for Scotland involves two strands of the University of Edinburgh – its commercialisation service. Edinburgh Innovations, and the Edinburgh Futures Institute, which has a particular focus on harnessing big data and digitisation to promote social good.
Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism, Fergus Ewing, has welcomed the launch and looks forward to seeing how the sector is strengthened as a result.
He said: “Tourism and hospitality has been hit hard and we do not underestimate the crisis this pandemic has created. Protecting jobs is a key focus of the Scottish Government’s response and, as more businesses re-open, Traveltech will support the sector on its road to recovery.”
The Chief Executive of Scottish Enterprise, Steve Dunlop, is confident Traveltech can support economic recovery in communities that rely on tourism and help the sector to ‘build back better’ by developing sustainability and resilience.
Mr Dunlop said: “By bringing together our digital and visitor economies, there’s a real opportunity for the Scottish technology sector to lead the way in creating innovative solutions to the challenges faced by the tourism industry on a global scale.”
The newly appointed Director of Traveltech for Scotland, Joshua Ryan-Saha, of the Edinburgh Futures Institute, believes it is in moments of great crisis that new ideas are born.
He said: “The travel industry faces unprecedented challenges and we need to invest now in Traveltech to build a better, more resilient and sustainable future for Scotland’s travel industry.”
COVID-19 has impacted heavily on the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors, forcing redundancies and reduced operations for airlines, hotels, bars, restaurants and tech businesses, and leading to the cancellation of Scotland’s major events and festivals in 2020.
In 2018 Scotland’s tech industry was valued at £4.9 billion, with over 100,000 people employed in the sector. Demand for tech recruits continues to grow rapidly: it is estimated that Scotland needs around 13,000 new people to work in tech every year.
The CEO of the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), Marc Crothall, said the launch marks a vital step forward in providing Scotland’s tourism businesses access to new technology solutions, which can build customers’ trust around virus control and safety.
He said: “It will offer reassurance that challenges can be overcome to aid a sustainable recovery for the industry and, I hope, put Scotland on the map as a leading destination for travel technology.”
Traveltech for Scotland is initially a three-year project funded under Scottish Enterprise’s Cluster Builder programme – supported by the 2014-20 European Structural and Investment Fund through a programme of jointly fund projects with the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), and managed by the Scottish Government.
A total of up to £342,000 has been allocated towards creating a Cluster Builder for traveltech in Scotland over three years. The ERDF contribution is up to £171,000.
For further information, please contact: Ronnie Kerr, Press and PR Office, Ronald.Kerr@ed.ac.uk
Traveltech encompasses a range of businesses developing digital and data-driven technology products and services for the travel and tourism sector. Traveltech organisations provide ‘business to business (B2B)’ and ‘business to consumer (B2C)’ products and services. Traveltech innovations range from robots in hotels to travel planning applications to virtual reality experiences. In 2018, Scotland’s digital tech turnover was £4.9bn from more than 9,500 businesses with more than 100,000 in Scotland in digital roles.
The tech sector is forecast to be one of the fastest growing in Scotland to 2029, in terms of GVA (growth of 26 per cent forecast over 10 years) – growing 1.5 times faster than the economy overall (18 per cent). Demand for tech recruits continues to grow rapidly. It is estimated that Scotland needs around 13,000 new people to work in tech every year. A significant proportion of these jobs will be prompted by replacement demand and people leaving the workforce. (Source: Digital Scotland: Scotland’s Digital Technologies – Summary Report 2019)