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In early May 2020, Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of Kaspersky, launched a tourism startup accelerator, ‘Kaspersky Exploring Russia’, with the aim of helping young entrepreneurs in the tourism space, who, due to the Coronavirus pandemic have been deprived of support from possible investors or an opportunity to promote themselves. More than 500 applications were submitted from 47 countries on 5 continents. Kaspersky representatives and leading experts within the tourism industry closely examined all applications and selected the 10 most interesting submissions from participants who will compete for victory. The group of finalists includes participants from Russia, the US, Israel, Portugal, the Netherlands, Estonia, and South Africa.

Entering into the Travel Tech category of the programme, the South African project in the top 10, the rainmaker VISTA Destination Network Open Platform and Ecosystem, demonstrates how modern technology and cloud platforms aid growth of especially all emerging, small, medium and independent hospitality and tourism businesses. The VISTA Destination Network is a public-private partnership and freemium business model for tourism authorities and associations to drive digital transformation (4IR) for the entire destination, to maintain tourist numbers at the destination, taking back control of visibility, digital presence, reputation, communication, and distribution for sustainable tourism by keeping more tourism spend in the destination, aligned with The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Armed with more than eight years of in-depth research and involvement in the Southern African hospitality and tourism industry, the rainmaker digital  team provides travelers with the opportunity to dream, plan and book seamlessly with enabled local accommodation and activity providers, tailor-designed itineraries from local tour operators or both through the destination portal. All seamlessly integrated with each other.

Says Thomas Müller, founder and CEO of rainmaker digital; “rainmaker as a social enterprise keeps more tourism spend in destinations by democratising technology for the emerging, small, medium, and independent hospitality and tourism businesses. No longer will they be dependent on not sustainable value chains to which they give away 60%-80% of their profits. Our VISTA Destination Network Open Supply Site Platform and Ecosystem and the Digital Transformation of a Destination digitally enables all Stakeholders to take back control of their visibility, digital presence, reputation, communication, and distribution. We make sustainable tourism development possible.”

The rainmaker VISTA team, along with the other finalists have participated in the full acceleration programme which included online workshops and lectures, aimed to help them prepare all the necessary requirements for the project presentations for the programme. As part of this learning, leading experts in the industry also shared their experiences and advice on how to create a successful business within this sector, aimed to transfer skills to these startups.

The programme jury will name the three winners on Thursday, 25 June. The gold medalist will be awarded an online education grant directly relevant to their project. The second and third place runners up will be awarded PR and marketing support for their projects, and software subscriptions tailored to solve their business needs, respectively.

The accelerator has been aimed at gathering the most interesting and promising tourism projects from different countries and then to help their creators implement their ideas further and overcome the current crisis. Being tourism-related – and innovative – was all that a project idea needed to be in order to be enrolled in the Kaspersky Exploring Russia programme. Participants didn’t even need to have a fully operating business, and their projects might have existed merely as ideas in their creators’ minds. There were also no geographical restrictions, though the project aims to help the Russian tourism industry overcome its current shortcomings and to become more successful.