UAE Ministry of Economy teams up with Plug and Play for tourism hackathon

The Tourism TechGen programme will help students develop innovative solutions for the sector, say officials

Tourists at the Heritage Village at Abu Dhabi's Corniche. Government initiatives have help the sector rebound from the pandemic. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
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The UAE Ministry of Economy has collaborated with global tech accelerator Plug and Play to launch a hackathon programme that aims to boost the Emirates' tourism sector.

The Tourism TechGen programme will leverage digitisation technologies and help students develop innovative solutions for the industry in partnership with local tourism authorities, the ministry said on Monday.

The move is aligned with the UAE's Principles of the 50, which is a series of initiatives to boost economic growth and prepare for a rapidly changing future.

Key government bodies and private sector companies participating in the hackathon include the tourism departments of Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah, Etihad Airways, exhibitions company Adnec Group and developer Miral.

Educational institutions in the programme are Zayed University, Khalifa University, UAE University and the Higher Colleges of Technology, among others.

“The UAE has made great strides towards the future of tourism through its continuous support and development of the sector, one that is vital and a key driver for promoting sustainable economic growth,” Minister of Economy Abdulla bin Touq said.

“Over the recent years, our nation has continued to witness strong and record levels of growth, thanks to our well-established comprehensive tourism system.”

Hackathons are gatherings of computer programmers and other relevant participants who engage in collaborative programming with the aim of creating new solutions for various use cases.

The UAE is active in bringing the hackathon community together, with programmes such as UAE Hackathon and Abu Dhabi Global Markets' FinTech Nations Global Hackathon, among others.

Tourism is one of the key pillars of the UAE economy that has bounced back from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dubai welcomed about 8.1 million international visitors in the first seven months of 2022 — an almost threefold increase compared to a year ago and surpassing the total for all of 2021.

Tourism also plays a key role in boosting related industries. Abu Dhabi’s meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions industry, for instance, is growing rapidly on the back of government policies that have supported the sector.

The tourism hackathon's primary goal is “to provide a platform that supports and upskills the UAE youth while also empowering the country's tourism sector in developing innovative services that can strengthen the entire industry”, Saeed Amidi, chief executive and founder of Plug and Play, said.

Tourism TechGen — applications for which opened on Monday — will work with local and international partners to train talent and equip them with emerging technologies to prepare them for the future economy.

Aside from the development solutions tailored to the tourism industry, the participants will also be trained with leveraging creativity and innovation in the sector, as well as learn how to launch and run entrepreneurial ventures.

“We aspire to deliver a multitude of opportunities that can help our students strengthen their contributions to and involvement in this field,” Mr bin Touq said.

“It also provides opportunities to showcase the favourable business environment the UAE offers to individuals and investors to pursue entrepreneurship in the sector and contribute to national economic growth.”

Updated: October 10, 2022, 11:40 AM