Details of Habitas’ expansion may contradict the brand’s eco credentials by going against its original pledge of using ‘local materials to minimize environmental impacts’. According to a survey conducted by leading data and analytics company GlobalData, 49% of Millennials are now actively interested in products that are better for the environment and will actively buy them. However, whether these eco-conscious consumers see past the original green façade created by Habitas remains to be seen.
Ralph Hollister, Associate Travel & Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Habitas aims to cut the cost of building hotels by using 3D-printed flat pack designs, pre-built in Mexico. It has currently raised $20m from investors including Uber’s founder Travis Kalanick and Tim Steiner, Ocado’s chief executive. The hotel company wants to become the self-proclaimed ‘Club Med for Millennials’ and is expanding into Asia, the Middle East and Africa.”
Co-founder – Oliver Ripley stated the flat pack materials can be ‘assembled like Lego after shipment, where they can be customized to fit the local environment’. Local people residing in the host destination may have a very different perception as to what type of construction fits their environment. This may cause tensions to rise in host communities when tourism begins to increase to a level which becomes potentially invasive.
Hollister adds: “Sustainability was originally said to be a ‘core belief’ in the hotel brand’s approach. This statement may have been conveniently forgotten as it expands further. The export of hotel parts to destinations far from Mexico will involve long haul transportation, creating an increase in C02 emissions. This would not be necessary if the hotel was being built on site.”
The company has opened one hotel in Tulum, Mexico, and says it plans to have seven or eight by the end of this year. This creates multiple construction opportunities lost for local construction companies in poverty stricken areas. Additionally, it will create many long haul trips to transport construction materials from Mexico to, for example, the Middle East.
Hollister concludes: “With the aim of building 10 to 12 hotels a year after 2020, construction locations in a more convenient area close to the hotel’s final location must be organized if the brand is to keep any eco-credentials it possesses.”