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Q&A with Tourism Tech Expo’s James Burnes

25 Jul 2019  By Staff Reporter | | @tourismticker

James Burnes, chief executive of Startup Queenstown Lakes Trust, on a new event for tourism startups, operators and investors – the Tourism Tech Expo 2019.

James Burnes

Q. What is the Tourism Tech Expo 2019 and what do you hope to achieve?

A. We have an incredible array of tech companies servicing the tourism industry. Tourism Tech Expo 2019 is an inaugural event to showcase NZ tech companies with solutions for the tourism, travel, hospitality, accommodation, and adventure experience sectors.<

The event is broken into two key sessions. The morning session will feature tech companies giving a Dragon’s Den style pitch to a panel of investors. They’ll have seven minutes to share their story and business model – and whether they are actually raising capital or just exploring future options – will receive feedback from the judges.

Following a keynote and lunch, the attention focuses on how the tech impacts the industry. Each tech exhibitor will have 20 minutes on stage to demonstrate their technology and share a case study of how operators are leveraging the technology to improve the customer experience, improve efficiencies, increase sales, or pad their bottom line.

There’s also an expo hall for attendees to chat one-on-one with the tech teams, so they can get a personal perspective too.

Our goal is simple: help innovative tourism tech companies showcase their business and give exposure to tourism professionals to emerging and best-in-class tech they could use in their business.

If we’re able to help the tech companies win a few more clients, great! If we help a few tourism operators discover a tech that can make their business better. That’s great too!

Q. Who is organising the event and what is the mission?

A. Tourism Tech Expo 2019 is being organised by Startup Queenstown Lakes Trust. Our organisation is the tech, innovation, and startup ecosystem organiser for the region.

We believe New Zealand is uniquely positioned to be a global leader in innovation to solve some of tourism’s challenges as sustainability, efficiency, and productivity put pressure on the industry. The Expo is our way to start planting the seeds for a tech sector that hasn’t received it’s due yet.

We have several successful tourism tech businesses based here including IBIS, Wherewolf, Chomp, First Table, InTouch and others that we’re excited to showcase among the companies from across New Zealand who will be exhibiting.

We hope that in five years, Tourism Tech Expo is a globally recognised tourism event.

Q. Who should attend the Expo and why?

A. If you’re an investor in the tourism space looking to diversify your portfolio with new and emerging tech, the investor pitch sessions will be great exposure to a wide variety of innovation.

If you’re an accommodation, hospitality, or tourism operator, the afternoon sessions will give you some exposure to fresh ways your peers are using tech to differentiate themselves or build a stronger business.

We’ll be hosting some conversations between sessions too – so there’s a lot to gain by being in the room with other operators who want to be on the cutting edge.

Q. Why is it being held in Queenstown and not, say, Auckland?

A. This event belongs in the Queenstown Lakes District. We have an incredible pool of tourism tech companies already based here exporting their IP around the globe. As a tech, innovation, and startup ecosystem, we’re making a commitment of resources and support to build this sector and leverage our destination status and experience.

To be clear, building a profile around tourism tech and innovation isn’t just to address Queenstown’s challenges – we have a lot of smart people here who are tackling problems with technology that affect all of New Zealand and other markets around the world too.

Q. If I am an investor, will there be investment-ready opportunities for me to consider?

A. Yes! We have numerous companies who are actively engaged in raising seed and angel capital for their business. A couple of our exhibitors have recently closed a round and are building relationships with investors who may be appropriate to participate in their next growth round.

Q. If I am a start-up, will there be serious investors attending?

A. Yes, we have numerous investors signed up who are experienced in investing. As well, several large operators are sending team members to look for strategic investment opportunities.

Q. Does it cost to attend? Why?<

A. There is no cost for tech exhibitors to attend (if they register before 1 August). Tickets are $59 for an afternoon general admission and $99 for an all-day pass which includes morning tea, lunch, and a cocktail hour.

We have held off on making this an overly commercial ‘trade show’ and so ticket investments will provide some cost coverage for our Trust, which is running the event.

Q. This is the inaugural event, so what are your plans for the Expo next year?

A. We expect Tourism Tech Expo to extend to a 3-day event that includes learning tracks on technology for operators that gives them more exposure around how to leverage technology throughout their business.

Q. What will success look like for this inaugural event?    

A. I suspect we’ll have numerous cheques written for investment and several agreements signed. That tells me that all parties found something that met their expectations.

Tourism Ticker is an official media partner at Tourism Tech Expo 2019. More information on the event can be found at


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