Habitas clinches $400m for ‘hotel circuits’ in Saudi Arabia

KSA: Habitas, a luxury hotel brand, experiential travel lodging and experiences company, has received US$400 million [1.5 billion riyal] from the Saudi government and investment community as the Kingdom builds up its travel and tourism industry for a wave of international visitors in the coming years.

According to Bloomberg, the money has been invested through a ‘Habitas Fund’, created by The Saudi Tourism Development Fund [TDF], to potentially help the company’s expansion across the Kingdom and attract more tourists, although no specific details have been disclosed on how the investment will be spent.

The company, which also specialises in events and started out building glamping-style campsites for the Burning Man festival in the Nevada festival, is reportedly planning to expand from two existing sites to six, in potential destinations such as Jeddah and the capital city Riyadh, as well as other sites along the Red Sea coast.

Having been launched by British entrepreneur Oliver Ripley and his partners in 2016, Habitas currently owns two properties in Saudi Arabia – the Habitas AlUla resort [since 2021] and a caravan campsite in a ‘living museum’ giga-project. The brand has scaled significantly in the last two years especially, with hotel openings in Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Namibia, and it is aiming to bring new international and domestic travellers to its resorts, based on an ethos around sustainability, community empowerment and local storytelling.

Habitas AlUla features three luxury tiers and 96 guest rooms, including the premium villa offerings Celestial Villas, Alcove Villas and Canyon Villas, as well as a yoga deck, fitness centre, restaurant and swimming pool.

Saudi Arabia’s TDF was established three years ago with an initial capital pot of US$4 billion [15 billion riyal] to propel the Kingdom’s travel and tourism industry.

As part of Saudi Vision 2030, a strategic framework set up to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and develop public service sectors, The National Tourism Strategy of Saudi Arabia wants to double the number of annual international and domestic travellers to the country to 100 million by 2030 and increase tourism’s share of the economy from three per cent to 10 per cent, a document on the fund’s website revealed. Such numbers could make Saudi Arabia one of the top five global tourism destinations in the world.

The broader strategy includes potential ventures to establish a new luxury airline and forge a $500 million e-sports destination, as well as bidding for major sporting events such as the 2029 Asian Winter Games, the 2030 FIFA World Cup [a joint bid with Egypt and Greece] and the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2036.

TDF has already secured agreements with Hilton and eco-lodge management startup Envi Lodges to add more lodging options for  tourists, although Saudi officials expect to spend at least $1 trillion to continue expanding the country’s burgeoning tourism industry.

So-called ‘hotel circuits’ are becoming increasingly popular travel and accommodation options as they are typically set in enticing, non-urban landscapes and enable guests to travel from one destination to another seamlessly, including sorting transfers from airports.

At the start of the year, it was revealed that Saudi Arabia is set to launch its own short-term rental property portal to take on major global marketplaces such as Airbnb, after a new tourism law was approved that will require hosts and owners to obtain a permit and provide proof of ownership.

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