Mastercard to establish Tourism Innovation Hub in Madrid in 2022

Mastercard to establish Tourism Innovation Hub in Madrid in 2022

Facility is being supported by the Spanish government and will open in the second quarter

New technologies to support the tourism industry will be developed in an innovation hub being set up this year by Mastercard in the Spanish capital Madrid.

Set to open in the second quarter of 2022, the Tourism Innovation Hub was announced this week at the FITUR trade show and is being supported by the Spanish government.

It will carry out research, generate data insights and develop technology solutions for the tourism sector using Mastercard’s tools and extensive global network.

Mark Barnett, president of Mastercard Europe, said: “There has been a multi-trillion dollar impact on the global tourism industry over the past couple of years, but Mastercard is committed to enabling innovation and ensuring that technology is harnessed for a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable recovery.

“The Tourism Innovation Hub will foster programs and build partnerships which will help the industry recover and drive more inclusive and sustainable tourism growth. Being located in Spain will allow us to leverage the expertise of a country intrinsically linked to tourism and the second most visited destination in the world.”

The impact on tourism of the COVID-19 pandemic has been laid bare by UNWTO figures which show the sector slumped from representing 10.4% of global GDP in 2019 to just 5.5% in 2020.

International visitors spent $1,691.5 billion in 2019 but just $517.6 billion in 2020 and UNWTO estimates that international tourist arrivals remained 70% to 75% below 2019 levels last year.

However, Mastercard says its data shows that there are opportunities for a robust recovery in the near future.

“Many consumers are looking at how to spend their share of the extra $5 trillion saved since the onset of COVID-19, and travel ranks second only to eating out as the out-of-home activity most missed during lockdowns.

“There has been a clear willingness to travel that has been determined by pandemic-related restrictions,” the global credit card scheme said.

Reyes Maroto, Spain’s minister of industry, trade and tourism, said: “The Spanish Government believes that now is the time for us to work together to build the future of our post-pandemic tourism model.

“We are going to stop measuring the success of the Spanish tourism model exclusively by the increase in the number of tourists – we must now go beyond this and focus on quality, profitability, innovation and sustainability, as well as social inclusion and territorial cohesion.

“There is no time to lose in taking up this challenge. And we all need to work together – the institutions and the private sector – strengthening our alliances and bringing other partners on board so that the Spanish tourism sector maintains its international leadership.”

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili added: “Tourism’s future will be driven by new ideas, new business methods and through joined-up solutions to overcome challenges and fulfil our sector’s enormous potential.

“UNWTO warmly welcomed the creation of a new Tourism Innovation Hub and looks forward to working closely with Mastercard to harness the power of data and creativity to build a more inclusive and sustainable sector.”

The Tourism Innovation Hub will aim to establish itself as a global platform for industry research, tourism strategy development and the co-creation of tailored products and solutions, through partnerships and initiatives.

Areas it intends to focus on include:

  • Thought Leadership: Using data insights and capturing target consumer insights to identify trends and inform policy decision-making;
  • Development Center: co-creating new products and services, codifying best practices and serving as a platform to bring together public and private sector partners to innovate together;
  • Labs-as-a-Service: designing, developing and testing new products and platforms that deliver digital first, sustainable and inclusive solutions for the industry, which address common business and consumer priorities.

The hub will work closely with Mastercard’s Sustainability Innovation Lab to create new tourism innovations that limit the impact of the sector on the environment.

Mastercard is working with the UNWTO, which is also headquartered in Madrid, across a range of initiatives.

Last year the company supported the UNWTO SDGs Global Startup Competition, providing mentorship to innovative small businesses that are enabling sustainable and responsible tourism around the world.

The Tourism Innovation Hub will be part of Mastercard’s network of global centres of excellence around the world, including the Intelligence and Cyber Centre in Canada, the Fintech-Cyber Innovation Lab in Israel, the Mastercard Lab for Financial Inclusion in Kenya, and the Sustainability Innovation Lab in Sweden, as well as Tech Hubs in Dublin and New York.