Human Capital, the Foundation of the Digital World of Tourism

Human Capital, the Foundation of the Digital World of Tourism

Lucerne (Switzerland) – May 3, 2019 ( – Innovative digital business models are constantly changing the travel, tourism and hotel industries. This technology-driven change forces organizations to question long-established structures in order to remain at the forefront of their sectors. In addition, the focus of the World Tourism Forum Lucerne was on the innovators themselves. In other words, the human capital of the industry.

Innovation and Transformation as the Common Denominator

In her presentation, Karolin Frankenberger, Professor of Strategic Management at the University of St. Gallen, outlined the dramatic changes in the tourism industry. “New start-ups in particular have turned the industry upside down with their disruptive business models. In addition to well-known names such as Airbnb, and Uber, new business such as GetYourGuide have emerged.” Professor Frankenberger went on to address why start-ups are so successful and why established companies appear sluggish and fail to add new business models to the market. “The core of transformation is the development of a new disruptive business model. Start-ups benefit from the absence of a long history, which limits agility and often makes innovation difficult. Established companies, on the other hand, have a legacy and an existing business model that has already achieved results.” What can established companies do? “They can easily learn to develop innovative business ideas,” stated Frankenberger. Implementation is central. “Most ideas fail in the execution phase,” Frankenberger explained, using various examples to illustrate that “leadership, people, culture, organisational strategy, technology and procedures are at the heart of a successful change implementation.”

Human Capital is Key

It has always been this way and it is becoming increasingly more central in the digital world. People determine the future of a company with their skills, commitment and self-identity. Human capital is key also means that individuals view their job as a vocation. It is therefore a matter of discovering new talents and offering them the right opportunities. Kate Walsh of Cornell University presented her research on human capital. “The future belongs to those companies whose managers have recognised that working methods need to be redesigned, that know how to promote the agility of each individual and thus their commitment and that further know how to inspire talented individuals. It is the core task of educators, Walsh continued, not only to constantly think about how and what should be taught, but also to consider how work in the technology-oriented world should be understood, defined and redesigned. “It is about how expert knowledge can be used or retained for a company. We need a new approach to the new working environment.”

Federal Councilor Commends Switzerland for its Strength in Innovation

In his speech, Federal Councilor Guy Parmelin, Head of the Federal Department of Economics, Education and Research, underlined the strength of Switzerland as being a hub for innovation. “Switzerland’s strengths can be seen above all in the innovative strength of the tourism industry,” Parmelin stated. Events such as the World Tourism Forum Lucerne are important platforms and should be seen as genuine drivers of change.

In total, more than 30 lectures, panel discussions, presentations, start-up pitches, award ceremonies, workshops and parallel sessions took place during the World Tourism Forum Lucerne in the KKL and other locations in the city such as the Hotelfachschule Luzern. The guest destination was Ras Al Khaimah.

Winners of the Start-Up Innovation Camp 2019

The 4th Start-up Innovation Camp 2019, which took place in the run-up to the WTFL, confirmed the amount of motivation, commitment and creativity that exists. The international jury selected five winners from 15 finalists (250 start-up companies from 56 countries applied). The winners are Trip Boutique, Zurich (Destination), Prognolit, Winterthur (Hospitality), RoomPriceGenie, Zug (Transaction), KITRO, Zurich (Impact) and EuroTube, Zurich (Mobility). In addition to prize money of 20,000 US dollars, the winners benefit from a 2-year coaching programme run by experienced managers and entrepreneurs.

Shaping the future of the Lucerne Campus

The World Tourism Forum Lucerne not only successfully organizes these events, but also generates content and creates value based on the themes of talent, innovation, sustainable development and diversity. The “Tourism by Tomorrow” project, launched in 2018 and supported by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the New Regional Policy (NRP), the city of Lucerne and various cooperation and industrial partners such as Bürgenstock Selection and Orascom Development by Samih Sawiris, has made Lucerne the hub of innovation for the tourism industry. The project, which was presented in detail to an enthusiastic audience at the WTFL, also includes a one-week camp for Swiss and global start-ups. “Tourism by Tomorrow” will take place for the first time in 2021. A further element of the project is an existing online platform that brings start-ups together with investors and service providers. The core is a structured database which continuously tracks down promising enterprises in the fields of tourism, travel, mobility and health and leads them to the platform, thus creating a type of “ecosystem”.

A positive balance

For Martin Barth, CEO of the WTFL, the 6th edition of the Forum has been a resounding success: “Not only did we increase the number of participants, but the feedback has also been positive in all respects. The WTFL has once again proven to be a unique platform where the world’s leading companies from the tourism, travel and hospitality sectors meet to shape a more sustainable future. The WTFL is the only platform that brings together start-ups, young leaders and students with investors, government ministers and CEOs.” Over the past ten years, the platform has evolved into a year-round network of leaders and innovators from a variety of backgrounds (business, education, politics, finance and society) who are driving positive change in travel, tourism and hospitality.

About the World Tourism Forum Lucerne
The World Tourism Forum Lucerne is an exclusive platform where the world’s leading tourism, travel and hospitality companies meet to shape a more sustainable future for tourism. It provides decision-makers with in-depth insights into the core themes of the tourism industry and a unique global network. The World Tourism Forum Lucerne is the only platform to integrate start-ups, young executives and students into one program. Over the past ten years, it has evolved into a year-round network of leaders and innovators who are driving positive change in the travel, tourism and hospitality industries. This includes an influential network of leaders from the business, education, politics, finance and community sectors.