Technology

WTM 2018: ‘Government support needed for tech start-ups’

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WTM 2018: ‘Government support needed for tech start-ups’

Stephen Penn

Government support for tech-start-ups, along with a level of freedom, is required in order to boost the global tourism market, a summit heard today.

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and World Travel Market’s Ministers’ Summit debated investment in tourism technology, with venture capitalist voicing the need for government ministers to reduce over-regulation around start-up companies.

Led by Richard Quest from CNN International, government ministers were urged to ‘never regulate by reaction’ and to give start-ups the support and freedom they need to crate solutions to problems in countries all over the world.

Katherine Grass, venture partner at Thayer Ventures, said directly to ministers: “A fundamental point in terms of what you can do for your country, is looking at how are you supporting the tech start-ups innovation ecosystems, because what we see is companies all over the world now being able to solve problems at their fingertips, but hyper global problems are best served by a start-up in that region and that understands the intricacies of that region. They need to be able to flourish without regulations pushing them down.”

Nations in the east were praised for their commitment to growing technology without fear, while others were criticised for being cautious with technological innovation in the travel sector and further afield.

“Artificial Intelligence is quickly becoming a domestic sector in China, and to make this happen governments are enlisting start-ups to help address the problem and push things forward,” said Victor Chua, managing partner at Vynn Capital. “This type of collaboration is what we need more of across.”

The idea of regulation was not admonished, however, as while investor and entrepreneur Morten Lund said that start-ups needed freedom and an ability to grow without excessive monitoring, he admitted governments need to be ‘tough against stupid ideas, and tough in their ideologies’, as long as this regulation was ‘constant’.

In response, Michael Ellis, Minister for Tourism in the UK, agreed this could be achieved but it required a level of ‘balance’. He said: “The reality is there are things that we can learn from business, there are things that businesses need to be regulated. They want hands off as much as possible but the public that we serve as government ministers expect thing to be happened in a certain way. Like in many other areas it’s a question of balance and it all boils down to getting that balance right.”

Other global nations, however expressed concern that they could be ‘left out’ of the tourism technology movement thanks to limited infrastructure. A tourism minister from Africa said during the panel: “If we are not able to meet the standard of AI like other nations like China, does that mean our tourism is going to be at a disadvantage?”

Moderator Richard Quest said there is a ‘gap between reality’ when it comes to the needs of nations and the what Venture capital companies are doing with their money. Minister Ellis responded that to make a change and bring venture capitalists to underserved nations: “governments needs to play their part and lead the way.”

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