DigiON Canarias concludes its first edition with nearly 800 participants

  • DigiON Canarias celebrated the awards ceremony of the UNWTO Startups competition for island destinations with SOS Carbon and Umni as winners.
  • The show has had a dozen or so presentations programme designed by South Summit, two panels and expert presentations

The Canary Islands Business Digitalisation Show, DigiON Canarias, closed its first edition today at Infecar with nearly 800 participants in two days of intense programming, both in terms of exhibition, training and specialised mentoring.

DigiON Canarias has been a meeting and debate place for solutions and challenges in digital transformation, with 32 exhibitors who have shown their proposals in a professional and multi-sector event designed to respond to the need for digital solutions and technological innovation.

The last day of DigiON Canarias hosted for the first time on the island the UNWTO (World Tourism Organization) startup competition for island destinations, in which 110 international companies participated to provide digital solutions to meet the new challenges of the 21st century.

In the category of ‘Deep Tech: New technologies applied to sustainability’ the winning project was SOS Carbon, an idea from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, presented by Elena Martínez. This startup has won the UNWTO startup competition for island destinations with an activity focused on offering more profitable and responsible solutions for the collection and disposal of sargassum (seaweed), minimising its economic, ecological, human health and environmental impact. This young company, founded in 2020, provides services for the collection and disposal of sargassum seaweed, in the manufacture of devices, technology licensing, consultancy, engineering, sargassum processing, or carbon sequestration, among others.

Finalists in this category were the projects Artemis Technologies (Belfast, UK), the Athens (Greece) project ‘Inteligg’; ‘Playtur’ from Cordoba (Argentina); and the Valencian project ‘Farmlike’.

In the category of ‘Innovation and digitalisation for island destinations’, the winner was the project from Sofia (Bulgaria), ‘Umni’, presented by Elitza Stoilova. This startup, founded in 2018, is dedicated to helping companies save thousands of staff hours by automating communication with customers and reducing routine. Through their ‘Umni’ platform, trained specifically in the industry to manage AI digital assistants, they help businesses turn customer questions into conversational AI, helping them automate communications, optimise employee performance, reduce wasted resources and gain insights into customer behaviour for better planning and smarter decision making.

Also competing for this international award with their proposals were the finalist projects from Crete (Greece), ‘Costa Nostrum’; the project from Milan (Italy) ‘Volvero’; the project from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria ‘Localbird’; and from Coimbatore (India), ‘Wroxai’.

The technical coordinator for Economic Development, Energy Sovereignty, Climate and Knowledge of the Cabildo de Gran Canaria, Raúl García Brink, highlighted the importance of hosting this competition, which is “key” and “the first time that the World Tourism Organization has held a startup competition to find innovative, intelligent and digital solutions for the tourism sector”. The focus of this competition is precisely “to solve specific problems in island territories, and for Gran Canaria it is essential to anticipate them and of course it is a source of pride to host the finalists and winners”.

DigiON Canarias is “promoting and fostering information and communication technologies, the Internet of Things, 5G, Big Data in the tourism sector”, which has been one of the first to go digital. Even so, he said, “there is still a lot of room for improvement, especially in everything that has to do with sustainability”. The DigiON Canarias competition and DigiON Canarias, which focuses on advancing “a more circular, more sustainable tourism, and on improving the tourist destination”, is based along these lines.

In this competition, “110 different proposals have been received, mainly focused on sustainability and digitalisation, seven of them from startups in Gran Canaria”, said García Brink. As he said, “the possibility that some of them could be installed in Gran Canaria” is being studied.

The spokesperson for the UNWTO, Isabel Oliver, stressed that for the UNWTO “it is very important for this competition and for it to be held on the island, because Gran Canaria is a tourist power in itself within Spain”. This competition is “very interesting” in these post-pandemic times in which “we are recovering with technological tools” to be able to take advantage of “the nature of the fragile island territories, using solutions that are and will be absolutely essential”.

“Data is the key to a tourism of the future”.

The Canary Islands Business Digitalisation Show, DigiON Canarias, within its closing day has held the international panel on ‘Leveraging innovation and digital transformation to strengthen competitiveness and develop resilience in the tourism ecosystem of the islands in the post-COVID era’.

Taking part in this panel were the Managing Director of Gran Canaria Tourism, Pablo Llinares; the founder and director of Island Innovation, James Ellsmoor; the director of the Global Tourism Innovation Hub, MasterCard, Jennifer Ruiz; the Fund Manager, Archipiélago Next, Patricia Fraile; the director of Programmes at TUI Foundation, Jost Neumann; the head of Strategic Projects Amadeus for Destinations, Ramón Sánchez; and the director of Digital Business and Strategic Consultancy Atlantis Technology (Binter group), Zulay Rodríguez.

The director of the Global Tourism Innovation Hub, MasterCard, Jennifer Ruiz, stressed that “data helps us to understand and make decisions based on figures”, in “understanding the tourist”. The Director of Programmes at the TUI Foundation, Jost Neumann, stressed that Gran Canaria has “great potential” in its landscapes, its people and its quality of life, and is working with data so that companies and destinations “learn to generate products that also help the communities”.

The Head of Strategic Projects at Amadeus for Destinations, Ramón Sánchez, also spoke along the same lines, highlighting how the information system “allows us to organise activities and work on what happens after the data, to better understand what travellers do and how to improve destinations” and thus “unite destinations with travellers with interest”.

The director of Digital Business and Strategic Consultancy Atlantis Technology (Binter group), Zulay Rodríguez, highlighted “the hard work of compilation and analysis behind each new route” because the airline “is growing” and can do so thanks to “a transformation from connectivity, with its feet on solid ground, and with strategies and programmes to also help the Canary Islands ecosystem”. As Rodríguez pointed out, studying the market is “key”, there is “a lot of knowledge behind every move”.

Among the topics discussed was the “necessary balance between tourism and the environment”, which is “the million-dollar question”, said the founder and director of Island Innovation, James Ellsmoor. In his opinion, “sustainability is not black and white, there is a scale and every action can lead us to move forward”, such as in areas like energy to find the formula for “having a volume of tourists and a sustainable destination”.

To advance on how to ‘Enhance entrepreneurship and sustainable economic opportunities for island destinations through successful governance and technology models’, a panel discussion moderated by Peter Janech, UNWTO Innovation, Education and Investment Coordinator, was held with the participation of Leslie Vella, Director General for Strategic Development, Malta Tourism Authority; Olga Theocharous, Senior Tourism Officer, Directorate of Quality Assurance and Licensing of Tourism Enterprises, Deputy Ministry of Tourism of Cyprus; Dalibor Cvitković, Director of the Tourism Office of Mali Losinj, Croatia; Claudio della Lucia, tourism professional from the island of Elba, Italy; Sergio Moreno, Professor at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria; and Cosme García, Director General of the Society for Economic Promotion of Gran Canaria (SPEGC).

The Canary Islands Business Digitalisation Show, DigiON Canarias, is promoted and financed by the Cabildo de Gran Canaria and organised by Infecar, Feria de Gran Canaria, thanks to the support of the official collaborator Cajasiete; the Sociedad de Promoción Económica de Gran Canaria (SPEGC), Inetel, Archipiélago Next and Proexca as sponsors and the collaboration of the Chamber of Commerce of Gran Canaria, and the participation of UNWTO and South Summit.



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