The UAlg and NEST Tourism Innovation Center Welcome the IPBN

Tourism Redefined by the Pros

The IPBN Algarve committee, in partnership with the University of Algarve (UAlg), the Algarve STP, and NEST Tourism Innovation Center Portugal, recently hosted the well-attended event, "Scaling-up for Tourism: Opportunities for Innovation in Tourism and the Challenges to Adapt to Transformation," in the Sala Atos at the Faculty of Economics at the UAlg Gambelas Campus in Faro, Algarve on Thursday, February 24. 

Efigénio Rebelo, Dean of the Faculty of Economy of the University of Algarve said in his welcoming statement, “It is a great honor for the Faculty of Economics – University of Algarve to host the event. Building bridges is even more necessary nowadays.” Following the Dean’s address,  Roberto Antunes, Executive Director at NEST Innovation Centre for Tourism led attendees through the role of innovation in scaling up tourism with insights based on his 20 years of experience in multinationals in marketing roles and FMCG category leadership positions, both at local, regional and global levels and applied his understanding of the market to the new reality in which we are living. Having lived in seven countries including Angola, Portugal, Austria, Italy, France, the UK, and Brazil, he had brought his expertise to the tourism sector since May 2019 from which time he has led NEST in their support of new and exciting business ideas, project development and experimentation, and the empowerment of SME companies in the field of innovation and the digital economy. Promoting innovation and research in tourism is only part of NEST’s focus, as the group, under Roberto’s direction is striving to create training laboratories in collaboration with universities, tourism schools, incubators, and knowledge centers like the UAlg so that it might lead the front into the new age of tourism.

Attendees then heard from Professor Francisco Serra, President of the Board of the Algarve STP who introduced the Digital Innovation Hub and the upcoming Algarve Tech Hub Summit that will run from March 28 to April 3. This will be the first edition of the event that squarely focuses on innovation and tech in the south of Portugal, and is being organized by the UAlg and Algarve STP. Francisco holds a PhD in Economic and Business Sciences, is a coordinating professor at the Escola Superior de Gestão, Hotelaria e Turismo (ESGHT) participating in international research networks, and specializes in the areas of Tourism and Health, so his insights into the world of tourism are well-grounded, especially considering the wealth of services he has been providing to the Algarve region through his work on the Board of Directors of Hospital de Faro, his role as director of ESGHT for four years, his Presidency of the Algarve Regional Coordination and Development Commission (CCDR Algarve), and his experience as manager of the CRESC Algarve 2020 program and his presidency of the Algarve-Alentejo-Andalusia Euroregion (EUROAAA).

Professor Antonia Correia next presented the KIPT Lab (Knowledge to Innovate Professions in Tourism), which opened at the UAlg last July. The KIPT Lab is the first and only Collaborative Lab in the field of tourism and has a geographic scope extended to the entire national territory—  the result of the pooling of efforts of a number of companies, associations, and higher education institutions. This laboratory includes the European University, through the Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality, with joint leadership from the UAlg’s Center for Research, Development, and Innovation in Tourism (CiTUR), the Algarve Tourism Association, and a broad range of other institutions. Antonia explained that KIPT intends to contribute, through research and innovation activities, to the more resilient and sustainable development of tourism, assuming the human factor as the center of innovation processes and the industry's competitive advantages.

Lastly, Miguel Silva, CEO of the StartUp Managing the Intelligence (MTI) took the podium to present innovative solutions using IoT and AI for the Global Hospitality industry. MTI is a Portuguese spin-off and startup company, that was born from a project of RDT and the UAlg. Made up of a young, strong, dynamic, and multidisciplinary team MTI has expertise in electronics, mechatronics, robotics, and programming, with the objective to develop high-quality IoT devices, which when acting within an optimized control system reduce the energy consumption in the Hotels. Miguel explained that MTI’s vision is to be a European leader in the area of technological innovation of Software and Hardware, by creating several IoT eco-friendly devices and developing AI and Big Data solutions in order to make more sustainable buildings, optimizing the operating costs and increase the revenues of their clients.

As the aim of the event was to better and more specifically illustrate the future of the tourism sector, the IPBN, with the help Hugo Barros of the Algarve STP, invited several Algarve-based tourism startups to present their businesses as a case study for what may be next on the horizon for the sector as a whole. These presentations ended after a short Q&A, kicking off some time for attendees to network, exchange insights, and information, and hopefully move forward as one in a united front for the new reality of the tourism industry.