South African College Students Win $10K In Travel Innovation Challenge, Aim To Launch Startup

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli


Three South African aeronautical engineering graduates at Johannesburg’s Wits University won a $10,000 prize for their submission to a U.K.-based travel innovation challenge.

The solution that they provided involved making it easier for travelers over 50 years of age to find their way around airports, which the three students identified as a potential issue for older tourists making their first trip to Africa, BiznisAfrica reported.

The students determined through thorough research that in Africa one out of three people above the age of 50 cannot read, and the aeronautical engineering graduates wanted to cater to those people.

The three students, Jules Ntumba, Tso Mello and Fiona Ndlovu, who formed Team One Exceptional, were chosen as the winners by the British SITA Air Transport Community Foundation, according to Ventureburn.

The aim of the travel innovation challenge, which was launched earlier in the year as a partnership between the SITA Air Transport Community Foundation, Tshimologong Precinct and Wits University, was to provide innovative information, tools or tech that would be useful and make life easier for first-time visitors to Africa via air travel.

Team One Exceptional emerged as the winners from a group of seven finalists shortlisted for the prize.

travel innovation challenge
Team One Exceptional won the travel innovation challenge and the $10,000 prize money. Photo – Wits University

Of the seven finalist teams shortlisted, two others were rewarded for their innovations, with Team Ava (made up of Alice Yang, Sean Morrow, Linda Khumalo, and Muhammed Chand), and Team Wits Elites ( made up of Rachel Mohlomi, Nqobile Mhlanga, and Takatso Molekane) each awarded $1,000 in prize money.

Travel innovation challenge winners to launch startup

The winning students will use their $10,000 prize money to launch a startup together, building on the success that they have had as a team thus far.

It is not clear whether their startup will focus on the travel and tourism sector, where many tourism tech startups are innovating and coming up with unique ways to help visitors explore the African continent.

From mobile apps that put travel guides at the fingertips of visitors to platforms that allow tourists to design their own vacation or experience, startups have tapped into the wants and needs of people taking a trip to countries across Africa.

A total of 58 million international tourists visited Africa in 2016, earning the continent $35 billion in revenue, according to IOL.

Tourism startups are leveraging local knowledge and technology to provide visitors with anything from booking sites to duty free shopping without stepping foot off the plane.

While startups are looking to benefit from the tourism boom in Africa, established global tech companies are also looking to invest in the continent.

In October Airbnb made a commitment to invest $1 million in community-led tourism projects across the African continent over the course of the next few years, according to ITWeb.

Airbnb, the mobile app-based hospitality booking site which allows people to make their homes or spare rooms available to visiting guests for a fee, will invest $1 million in community-based African tourism projects between 2018 and 2020.