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UAE’s Etihad Airways joins new Israeli program to foster travel tech

$3 million accelerator called OnBoard is partnered by Booking.com and Amadeus, Arieli Capital says; tech is key to getting industry back on track, notes Arieli’s innovation chief

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

An Etihad Airways plane carrying a delegation from the United Arab Emirates on a first official visit, lands at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, on October 20, 2020. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
An Etihad Airways plane carrying a delegation from the United Arab Emirates on a first official visit, lands at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, on October 20, 2020. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Arieli Capital, a holdings and investment company, said that Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, will be a partner in a new Israeli accelerator program focused on fostering startups in the field of tourism.

The NIS 10 million ($3 million) program, called OnBoard, seeks to help fledgling Israeli and international firms in the field of travel technologies link up with travel giants and develop business relationships with them, enabling travel firms to tap into the latest technologies.

The program will be managed by Arieli Capital and was launched this week in partnership with tourism giants Booking.com, Spain’s travel firm Amadeus and Etihad Airways. These partners will help select the startups for the program, mentor them and link them up with strategic opportunities in the sector, Arieli Capital said.

“We are living in a technology world,” said Or Haviv, partner and head of innovation at Arieli Capital, in a phone interview. “Technology is not just nice to have; it is a must.”

While the coronavirus is rampant and even after the pandemic, technology is what will make it safe for people to enter planes, hotels, airports and cruise ships. “It can be a matter of make or break,” he said. “The industry understands this and is paying attention.”

Startups that will be selected for the accelerator program will get help in business plan development, creating connections to markets and customers, recruitment assistance, business cooperation, access to infrastructure and marketing tools.

Each company will receive an assistance package of a variety of services worth $250,000. As they grow their technologies the partners in the accelerator will also mull investments in the firms, Arieli said in a statement.

The first cohort of startups, both from Israel and globally, is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2021, Arieli said, and registration is now open.

Each year some 10 companies will be selected for the program, Haviv said. “Travel is by definition international,” he said, and thus it was important to open the accelerator to an international group of startups. Post-pandemic, the program will be based in Israel, he said.

Arieli Capital has offices in New York, China and Tel Aviv, and operates a global venture arm that manages and invests in technologies, hubs and accelerators. Arieli Capital runs a number of innovation centers, including an agricultural innovation center in Israel, together with the country’s largest regional council Ramat Negev Regional Council. The firm also runs an innovation center in Eilat that focuses on marine technologies, tourism and agriculture.

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