Details of Habitas’ expansion may contradict the brand’s eco-credentials, going against its original pledge of using ‘local materials to minimise environmental impacts’.

Habitas aims to cut the cost of building hotels 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.

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.

Economic leakage and exportation

According to GlobalData’s Q3 2019 survey, 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.

The main parts of the company’s properties are manufactured in Mexico using 3D printing technology, before being shipped to their operative location and assembled on-site.

This component of the business model is likely to create sizeable amounts of economic leakage, with the majority of the construction process occurring away from the destination.

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. Fast rate of expansion could have negative environmental and social impacts. 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.

With the aim of building ten to 12 hotels a year after 2020, construction locations in a more convenient area close to the hotel’s final location must be organised if the brand is to keep any eco-credentials it possesses.

Co-founder Oliver Ripley stated the flat-pack materials can be ‘assembled like Lego after shipment, where they can be customised 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 that becomes potentially invasive.