Meet the Winners: The First-Ever Adventure Innovation Challenge

Meet the Winners: The First-Ever Adventure Innovation Challenge

On September 13, 2023, the UnTours Foundation co-hosted the first-ever Adventure Innovation Challenge with the Adventure Travel Trade Association in beautiful Hokkaido, Japan at the Adventure Travel World Summit.

After receiving over 50 applications to compete for funding in this pitch competition, the foundation team selected and coached three entrepreneurs to create and deliver exceptional presentations to an audience of hundreds and a judging panel of five industry experts.

The three finalists embody the principles the foundation advances through the Reset Tourism Fund, aimed at identifying and investing in the most innovative travel businesses that best represent the industry’s future. With funding partners including Expedia Group and the TUI Care Foundation, the foundation deploys flexible capital to entrepreneurs growing their businesses and their positive impact.

Meet the winners:

FIRST PLACE: Kapawi Ecolodge was represented by Juan Carlos Garcia, who pitched a community ecotourism summit so the Achuar people of Ecuador can collectively plan how to expand sustainable tourism activities in their communities for years to come. Kapawi Ecolodge is a 100% indigenous community-owned (and 100% solar-powered) enterprise in the Amazon Rainforest that offers conscious and responsible travelers the opportunity to engage in authentic cultural experiences with people of the Ecuadorian Amazon, in an unspoiled rainforest setting while directly supporting the sustainable development of the Achuar indigenous nation. We are proud to say that Kapawi took first place in the judges’ vote, winning $5,000 to fund their important work. Check out their beautiful Instagram to be inspired by the beauty and impact of Kapawi.


SECOND PLACE: Zakia Moulaoui Grey, founder and CEO of Invisible Cities, pitched the international expansion of her United Kingdom-based social enterprise. Invisible Cities trains people who have experienced homelessness to become walking tour guides of their own cities. Headquartered in Edinburgh and covering six cities currently through an innovative franchise model, Invisible Cities exists to provide exceptional and unique tours (designed by the guides themselves) while also addressing the stigma surrounding homelessness and demonstrating that everyone has great potential. Check out their Instagram to learn more about the impact and growth of Invisible Cities, who won a cash prize of $1,500 by coming in second place.


AUDIENCE FAVORITE:  Jeny Pokharel, founder and CEO of SASANE Sisterhood Trekking and Travel, delivered an inspiring presentation about how her business is empowering women in Nepal through adventure travel. SASANE provides women who have been trafficked with opportunities for employment and equality, upskilling them to become trekking guides and supporting the SASANE enterprise through various functions. SASANE also provides critical economic opportunities to remote communities that host travelers for homestays and other cultural activities. They also provide city tours and cooking classes. Jeny captured the crowd’s hearts, winning the audience favorite vote and securing a free year of ATTA Membership, along with a $1,000 cash prize. Learn more about SASANE and the issues they address on their Facebook and Instagram.

Each finalist delivered incredible pitches, giving the panel of judges a hard time behind the scenes to select a winner! Fortunately, the judges each came with incredible experience and insight, asking great questions of the finalists and weighing various criteria during a thoughtful deliberation.

Meet the judges:

Thank you to our Adventure Innovation Challenge judges (pictured below with pitch finalists and UnTours Foundation Co-CEO Jonathan Coleman.)

PHOTO:  Judges Susanne Al Houby, Stevie Christie, Gabby Beckford, Tullia Caballero, Augiand Boratay Uysal with pitch competitors and Jonathan Coleman, UnTours Foundation Co-CEO.

We could not be more grateful to the judges and finalists for making this first-of-its-kind event a stunning success that brought attention to some of the world’s leading travel enterprises who model the kind of impact that will change the world.

Interested in applying for a Reset Tourism Fund loan or to donate? Check out the Reset Tourism Fund page.