Destination partnerships unveiled as Mastercard opens Madrid Tourism Innovation Hub

Destination partnerships unveiled as Mastercard opens Madrid Tourism Innovation Hub

Payments giant is working with Spain, Portugal, Costa Rica, Paris, Gothenburg and Prague

Mastercard has unveiled a Tourism Innovation Hub, announced a year ago, with a series of projects involving destination partners including Spain, Portugal, Costa Rica, Paris, Gothenburg and Prague.

The Tourism Innovation Hub, unveiled at Spanish travel trade show FITUR in Madrid on Wednesday, is based in the Spanish capital.

But Mastercard has developed it as a pop-up technology ‘space’ which it plans to take around the world to showcase digital insights and solutions for the tourism sector.

Mastercard vice-president Quim Martinez, who heads the Tourism Innovation Hub, said: “The hub has two main objectives – to accelerate the digitalisation of destinations and their value chains, and to develop new solutions with governments and the public sector.”

He explained: “We started working with governments on data insights and solutions during the pandemic and realised we had many capabilities.

“We focus on the public sector, but you can’t transform the industry without engaging the private sector.”

Martinez added: “Tourism is not one of the most-advanced sectors in terms of digitalisation. Those that are digitised are more efficient and resilient.”

Mastercard is working with the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre based in Jamaica.

UNWTO secretary general Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Innovation is key to realising tourism’s enormous potential as a driver of sustainable development and opportunity. The UNWTO will support even more tourism innovators with the Mastercard Tourism Innovation Hub.”

Martinez gave examples of the projects the hub is already engaged with, telling Travel Weekly: “We’re working with Paris and Gothenberg to optimise the planning of events.

“There is no solution in the market that makes this possible in an easy way. We’re working to create a tool to manage events and measure the economic and sustainability impacts. We have a pilot and expect to develop the tool in 2023.

“We partnered with a Swedish start-up to calculate the CO2 emissions of a trip and partnered with a carbon offset scheme to enable travellers to compensate [their travel by carbon offsetting].

“In Spain we have a project with the government to develop tourism data-sharing, and we’re developing a sustainability platform for Seville.

“In Osaka, Japan, we want to improve travellers’ experience by breaking the language barrier with a project to develop a solution to guide travellers around the city in their own language with their phone.”

He said: “We want to act as a centre for solutions for the industry – data solutions, marketing solutions, loyalty solutions, destination promotion solutions, cyber solutions, and solutions for SMEs.

“We developed a data-services consultancy and are curating ‘Priceless’ experiences, working with governments to create flagship experiences to promote destinations and bring new tourists, such as going to a restaurant, meeting the chef and eating in the kitchen or visiting a museum and watching restoration work.”

However, he added: “It’s not only about technology solutions. We also want to provide knowledge and experience.

“We believe a better tourism sector, with more people travelling in a more sustainable way, is good for destinations and good for Mastercard.”

Martinez described the hub as “a big investment”, saying: “We created a new team and deployed a pop-up hub for the first time at FITUR which we’ll take to places around the world.”

The Tourism Innovation Hub has a membership structure but is free for governments, public sector organisations and destination managers. Martinez said Mastercard charges “a low fee” for private sector companies to join.