Gathern raises $6m in landmark Series A funding round

KSR: Jeddah-based vacation rental marketplace Gathern has announced that it has raised $6 million [SR22 million] in Series A funding to fuel its domestic expansion.

The round was led by Saudi venture capital firm STV, with participation from existing investors in the shape of Vision Ventures, 500 Startups, Naef Sultan AlAthel, and ARG Limited.

It marks the largest Series A round in the history of Saudi Arabia for a women-led firm, and Gathern becomes the first peer-to-peer platform authorised by the Kingdom’s Ministry of Tourism.

Founded in 2017, Gathern intends to use the incoming capital to enhance its product and accelerate its expansion in Saudi Arabia. The company now operates in over 100 towns and cities, including the capital city of Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Abha, Al-Baha, Taif, Al-Ula, and Umluj.

Gathern allows its users to rent anything from chalets to resorts, villas, apartments, camps and farms, as well as mobile options such as caravans and yachts.

Ahmad Alshammari, partner at STV, said: “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. 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,” he added.

Gathern co-founder and CEO, Latifa Altamimi, 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,” she added.

Saudi Arabia is making a point to drive inbound international and domestic tourism as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which is a blueprint to welcome up to 100 million international and domestic visitors by 2030, roughly treble the country’s current population.

Furthermore, since opening up to international tourists in September 2019, a number of large-scale tourism driving projects have been announced, including a $530 million mega fund to develop attractive destinations across Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, Riyadh is pledging to increase the tourism sector’s contribution to Saudi Arabia’s GDP from three per cent to ten per cent in order to reduce the Kingdom’s reliance on oil for its economy.

The Kingdom is poised to rebound quicker than many other countries from the devastating impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, with independent global market research company Euromonitor International estimating that tourism spending generated in Saudi Arabia would rise to $25.3 billion by 2025 at current projections.

Another Jeddah-based firm, property management company Mabaat Real Estate Company launched a ‘first-of-its-kind’ online platform in Saudi Arabia as recently as November 2o2o. It specialises in renting out residential units on behalf of owners on a short-term basis.