SATSA member invited by UNWTO NEPAD to promote African tourism innovation

Five African tourism start-ups were given the opportunity to share and pitch their business ideas and funding needs to African and European Tourism ministers, academics and investors through the joint UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization) – NEPAD Tourism Tech Adventures initiative.

The presentations were made as part of the 10th anniversary of INVESTOUR; the event dedicated to promoting African tourism and businesses yearly at FITUR in Madrid, Spain. The five; Khwela Youth Tourism Stars (South Africa), Phenomenon Technologies (Zimbabwe), Run Africa (Ethiopia), Lives (Senegal) and Roundbob (Uganda) made the final shortlist out of over 3 000 applications that were received from all over the world.

In an attempt to further spur the growth of technology and innovation, UNWTO Africa and NEPAD launched the UNWTO/NEPAD Tourism Tech Adventure to encourage the development of technology and innovation in the tourism sector in Africa. The UNWTO/NEPAD Tourism Tech Adventure aims to provide a platform for African youth entrepreneurs to nurture their innovative ideas and utilize technology in further developing the tourism sector in Africa.

Khwela Youth Tourism Stars ( represented by Kim Whitaker from Once Youth Hotels South Africa, was one of the five startups which received sponsorship to learn and pitch their startups to the world’s tourism leaders, investors, corporates, academia and supporting business partners during INVESTOUR.


Interview with SATSA member, Kim Whitaker. Kim is the co-founder of Once Youth Hotels, and co-founder of Khwela Tourism Youth Stars – South Africa.

We founded Khwela in 2017 to close the gap between the high youth unemployment (around 60% in South Africa) and youth tourism operators (for example backpackers’ hostels, adventure tour operators etc) who struggled to find staff to work in their tourism businesses. Khwela means “to climb” in isiXhosa and is an innovative tourism skills program that teaches unemployed young women how to “climb” to success and get a job in the youth tourism industry. Through online learning, mentorship, an experiential road trip through South Africa and a six-month learnership, we bring these two parties together and empower young unemployed women to work in the industry while appreciating and experiencing the beauty of South Africa and the opportunities the Youth tourism industry offers. We hope to find further connections and grant funding through the Investour pitch, so we can create our own customized online curriculum, roll out the program into rural a areas and create better digital infrastructure for our learners.

“One of the highlights was the mentorship and training we received at the UNWTO headquarters the day before the pitch event, as well as meeting the other four innovative entrepreneurs. I encourage tourism start-ups to apply for this initiative in future.” Said Whitaker.

For more information on how you can get involved, or more information on the Khwela program, please reach out to Kim directly:; or linkedin:

For more information on the program:

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