By Arab News
By Deema A-Khudair
Gathern, a Riyadh-based startup similar to Airbnb, announced on Sunday the completion of a SR22 million ($6 million) Series A funding round headed by Saudi venture capital firm STV and supported by existing investors Vision Ventures, 500 Startups, Saudi businessman Naef Sultan AlAthel, and ARG Limited.
The company plans to use the new funding to invest in developing its product and expanding its geographic presence in Saudi Arabia, where it is now present in more than 100 towns and cities, including Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Abha, Al-Baha, Taif, Al-Ula, and Umluj.
Founded in 2017 by entrepreneur Latifa Altamimi, Gathern allows users to rent a villa, apartment, farm, caravan, room, chalet, camp, or yacht directly from an individual owner through its platform on a daily basis, and it is the first company in Saudi Arabia that has obtained this license from the Ministry of Tourism.
“We are incredibly excited to partner with Gathern – it is our first investment in the travel space, and the largest ever investment in a female-led Saudi startup,” Ahmad Alshammari, a partner at STV, said in a press statement. “We believe that Latifa and the Gathern team have the right engine to tackle this fast-growing market with a fresh approach. They have proven themselves to be incredibly nimble and resilient during COVID-19, where they grew significantly despite the global challenges. We are excited to see what the future holds.”
Latifa Altamimi, co-founder and CEO at Gathern, said: “Saudi Arabia has a renewed vision for its tourism sector, with both domestic and international tourism seeing significant support. With Gathern, we look to offer a different experience from the traditional travel experience, by providing unique tourist residences from actual residents. This allows anyone to explore the real culture and cities in Saudi Arabia. If you become a host on our platform, you simply list your villa, apartment, farm, caravan, room, chalet, camp, or yacht, which allows you to earn significant additional income.”
Saudi Arabia opened up to international tourism in September 2019 and has since announced a number of megaprojects to attract visitors, including a $530 million fund to develop key destinations across the Kingdom. Riyadh aims to raise the contribution of its tourism sector to its GDP from 3 percent to 10 percent, in a bid to modernize its economy and veer away from oil dependence.
Market research firm Euromonitor International estimated in March that inbound tourism spending in Saudi Arabia would reach $25.3 billion by 2025, recovering from the impact of the coronavirus disease pandemic.