For us, by us. That’s the philosophy at the heart of the US Virgin Islands-based tech company, Ávera Tech, which is on a mission to leverage technology to revolutionise the Caribbean tourism industry.
In less than two years, the millennial-led startup has developed a suite of mobile apps aimed at enhancing the tourist experience while simultaneously mitigating the spread of the Covid-19 virus amidst the ongoing global pandemic.
“Our company is dedicated to providing technological solutions to bridge what we’ve identified as the three pillars of tourism — government, vendors, and tourists,” says Ávera CEO and co-founder, Michael Pemberton.
Alongside his partner, Aliyah Bryan, who serves as Ávera’s director of operations, Pemberton seeks to fill critical gaps within the industry and provide West Indians with a means through which they can capitalise on their own culture.
“We felt a calling to not just facilitate a tech solution, but to execute purposeful work that would one day pave a path of prosperity for the region as a whole. We believe that grassroots innovation and progressive political leaders in the region can create the blueprint that would ultimately become the framework for creating generational wealth in our communities,” Pemberton says.
Capitalising on cannabis
The company’s first initiative emerged as a direct response to the substantial growth in the global cannabis industry.
“While working on a project to capitalise on the islands’ booming tourism industry we saw an opportunity to fulfil a need many tourists have but experience difficulty satisfying while on the ground,” Pemberton explains.
To that end, Ávera Cannabis Suite was created to facilitate the sale of cannabis and cannabis products to Virgin Islanders and visitors over 21 years old. Through the app, individuals wishing to avail of the islands’ cannabis offerings can apply for a legal registration card, aka a ‘Day Pass’ and have access to all the services registered with the app, including cultivators, dispensaries, doctors, transportation, and security companies. Payment can be made within the app.
In addition to fulfilling the needs of tourists and creating a channel of income for residents, Pemberton says the app “provides the government with specific protocols to allow all transactions needed to manage the industry”.
He adds that Avera has the full support of the US Virgin Islands’ government.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, dealing a particularly hard blow to the tourism industry, the team at Ávera felt compelled to provide a solution.
It came in the form of PeláGo, a virtual excursion manager designed to alleviate the financial strain on tourism practitioners by giving excursion businesses the opportunity to access innovative technology and foster financial independence.
“Anyone in the approved network can use the app to schedule and pay for tourism activities,” Pemberton explains. Businesses can also use PeláGo’s powerful administration dashboard to manage and grow their customer base, as well as manage activity payments and transaction reporting.
With rising concern over the spread of the virus, Ávera introduced Chronous Contact Tracing software to allow destinations to respond decisively to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The mobile app features a variety of digital tools that disseminate timely and accurate information about the virus to tourism-driven countries and institutions of all sizes.
Through Chronous Contact Tracing travellers can upload their COVID-19 test results and travel dates to the app’s HIPAA-compliant database allowing the Chronous software to track the location of registered users to determine the areas they have visited. Should a user venture into a danger zone, the app will send an alarm and a questionnaire to evaluate symptoms.
Plans to expand
Through these three apps, Ávera intends to leverage technology to revive the Caribbean tourism industry amidst a global pandemic. And this is just the beginning. Pemberton and his partner have plans to expand throughout the region, starting with Jamaica in 2022.
However, even with the progress they have made in such a short space of time, they’re well aware they need support to scale successfully and sustainably.
“Being from such a small territory, we needed to find a way to put our company on a prominent, regional platform that shows the Caribbean tourism industry that Ávera has developed a system where technology, tourism, and vendors intersect to efficiently manage the tourism eco-system,” Pemberton says.
And they have found that way through TBR LAB, a Caribbean startup accelerator executed by Tech Beach Retreat.
According to Pemberton, the West Indians possess the capacity to solve many of the problems plaguing the region, and TBR LAB offers entrepreneurs the rare opportunity to not only scale and dominate regionally but also globally.
Through the connections made and insights gained from TBR LAB, Pemberton is confident in the future of Avera Tech and the company’s ability to maximize the tourist experience while increasing revenue for regional vendors.
He says: “We believe that we could be the spark that ignites a major technological revolution, by reimagining the framework through which the Caribbean region invites global visitors to bear witness to its unspeakably rich cultures and the amiable people who preserve them.”
—By Serah Acham