Expedia Group is backing 12 innovative travel start-ups that are striving for a more sustainable and inclusive future by increasing access for underserved groups.

Following the launch of the Expedia Group Accelerator last September, 12 finalists – each with a unique area of focus – have been selected from hundreds of applicants across the globe.  

Half of these business are aimed at increasing access for travellers with disabilities, from wheelchair users to those with vision impairment, while others are focused on supporting women, LGBTQIA+ travellers, and Black travellers to access safe and inclusive travel experiences.

“Expedia Group has been on its own inclusion journey for quite a few years now, and we’re committed to extending the work that we’re doing internally to our traveller base as well,” Expedia Group Vice President of Global Social Impact and Sustainability, Aditi Mohapatra, told HM.

“This program is really about bringing our platform capabilities, our technology capabilities, our expertise across this space, and in our networks, to amazing businesses that are already working to make travel more equitable and accessible.”

Speaking about the businesses involved, Mohapatra said many of them started out as a result of their own lived experience and a desire to meet a need for travellers like them.

“Accessibility really does come to the forefront as one of the biggest barriers for travellers with disabilities,” she said.

“We had a goal of having about 40% of our startups focused on accessibility and we ended up having 50% purely focused on accessibility, which is great.

“Others, like Geo Sure, provide safety information for travellers, in particular for LGBTQ travellers, but also for women and other travellers for whom safety is a particular concern.

“There’s a service called Green Book which identifies and raises the visibility of Black-owned businesses and features Black traveller reviews to help consumers identify places that are welcoming to Black travellers.”

The five-month program kicked off with an in-person event at Expedia’s headquarters in Seattle in January. Each start-up is issued a cash grant of up to US$20,000 and has been paired with a product and technology mentor, as well as a business mentor from Expedia Group to solidify their business strategy and explore partnerships to take their business to the next level.

“We have a series of virtual workshops with third parties to talk about business strategy, and we have a lot of our own experts coming in to talk about all sorts of different tech capabilities that we also can offer the start-ups as well,” Mohapatra said.

At the end of the program, each business will present their journey and results at Expedia’s headquarters, giving them the opportunity to pitch to a room full of venture capitalist funds and investors as well as travel industry leaders.

Expedia Group is looking at opportunities to partner with each of the business beyond the program.

More details about the start-ups involved can be found here.