Mastercard to help drive tourism recovery with new Spain hub

By Kate Birch
Mastercard’s Tourism Innovation Hub in Spain will leverage data insights and co-design tech to drive global sustainable and inclusion recovery for tourism

Mastercard has announced the setting up of a new Tourism Innovation Hub in Spain, with the aim of helping the much-impacted travel and tourism industry recover and ultimately reach new heights. 

Because, if there’s one industry that needs a helping hand as we bounce back from the pandemic, it’s travel and tourism, which has been significantly impacted over the last two years. 

This once buoyant sector, which represented 10.4% of global GDP in 2019, saw its business halve in 2020 to just 5.5% of GDP, with international visitor spend dropping from US$1,691.5bn in 2019 to US$517.6bn in 2020. 

And while pandemic-induced travel restrictions have eased since, the latest forecast from the World Tourism Organisation estimates that international tourist arrivals in 2021 remained 70-75% below 2019 levels. 

As we move into 2022 and the vaccine rollout continues apace and restrictions ease, there is light at the end of the tunnel, with recent data revealing opportunities for a robust recovery of travel in the near future. 

According to research from Mastercard Economics Institute, many consumers are looking at how to spend their share of the extra US$5 trillion saved since the onset of Covid-19, with travel ranking second only to eating out as the out-of-home activity most missed during lockdowns.

Mastercard’s new innovation hub to facilitate recovery

To facilitate this return to travel, in a way that is fit for the future, Mastercard is launching a Tourism Innovation Hub, with the aim of driving more inclusive and sustainable tourism growth.

Located in Madrid and with backing from Spain’s government, the hub will act as a global platform to drive tourism’s future by delivering new ideas and business methods along with joined-up solutions to overcome challenges and fulfil the sector’s enormous potential. 

According to Mark Barnett, President of Mastercard Europe, the hub will act as a global platform for industry research and strategy development and will foster programs and build partnerships which will help the industry recover and drive more inclusive and sustainable tourism growth. 

“There has been multi-trillion dollar impact on the global tourism industry over the past couple of years, but Mastercard is committed to enabling innovation and ensuring that technology is harnessed for a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable recovery,” he says. 

“Being located in Spain will allows us to leverage the expertise of a country intrinsically linked to tourism and the second most visited destination in the world.”

Set to launch in the second quarter of 2022, the lab will feature the following initiatives: 

  • Thought leadership Leveraging data insights and capturing target consumer insights to identify trends and inform policy decision-making
  • Development Centre Co-creating new products and services, codifying best practices and serving as a platform to bring together public and private sector partners to innovate together
  • Labs As A Service (LaaS) Designing, developing and testing new products and platforms that deliver digital first, sustainable and inclusive solutions for the industry, which address common business and consumer priorities 


Key focus will be driving sustainable solutions to travel

Sustainable tourism will be a key focus, with the hub leveraging the power of data and creativity to build a more inclusive and sustainable sector. 

There will be close collaboration between this new hub and Mastercard’s Sustainability Innovation Lab, to help empower governments, businesses and consumers to transform how they adapt and create new sustainable tourism innovations. 

And Mastercard will work closely with the Spanish Government to help pioneer a post-pandemic tourism model. Committed to sustainability, the Spanish Government has said it plans to stop measuring the success of Spanish tourism model exclusively by the increase in the number of tourists, and will go beyond that with a focus on quality, profitability, innovation and sustainability, as well as social inclusion and territorial cohesion.

“There is no time to lose in taking up this challenge,” says Reyes Maroto, Spanish Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism. “And we all need to work together – the institutions and the private sector – strengthening our alliances and bringing other partners on board so that the Spanish tourism sector maintains its international leadership. 


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