Launched today, the Traveltech for Scotland cluster group will build a support network for travel technology pioneers to collaborate, foster an online community of entrepreneurs and promote industry events.
It is hoped the venture will support economic recovery and create new opportunities for businesses, such as digital tour operators, online booking providers and companies exploring the use of robotics to enhance customer service.
Led by the University of Edinburgh and funded via the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise, the three-year, £342,000 initiative will also 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; Edinburgh Innovations and the Edinburgh Futures Institute, which focuses on harnessing big data and digitisation to promote social good.
The newly appointed director of Traveltech for Scotland, Joshua Ryan-Saha, of the Edinburgh Futures Institute, said the organisation will support the industry to overcome significant challenges ahead.
“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,” he said.
The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on Scotland’s travel, tourism and hospitality sectors, forcing redundancies and reduced operations for hotels, bars, and restaurants across the country.
Additionally, the cancellation of Scotland’s major events and festivals in 2020 has raised serious concerns over the long-term economic impact of the pandemic.
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Steve Dunlop, chief executive of Scottish Enterprise 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.
Similarly, drawing on the growing strength of Scotland’s tech sector could enable more businesses to modernise and adopt new technologies. In 2018, Scotland’s tech industry was valued at £4.9 billion, with over 100,000 people employed in the sector.
“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,” Dunlop said.
Traveltech is also an area in which Scotland maintains a strong global reputation, with flight-booking giant Skyscanner and TravelNest both calling Edinburgh home.
Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism, welcomed the launch as a positive step amid a difficult period for Scotland’s tourism industry.
“Tourism and hospitality has been hit hard and we do not underestimate the crisis this pandemic has created. Protecting jobs is a key focus on the Scottish Government’s response and, as more businesses can re-open, Traveltech will support the sector on its road to recover,” he said.