An Irish start-up that hopes to cash in on growing demand for back-to-nature holidays and "glamping" has won a near-€3 million contract to supply pre-fab homes to Canada.
Zoobox is a new Irish company that has raised €5.5 million from backers to make pre-fabricated environmentally friendly holiday homes for sale here and abroad.
Chief executive Guillaume Pellerin confirmed that it plans to supply 15 of these homes to a partner company in Canada, which has earmarked them for sites likely to lure so-called “eco tourists” who want to holiday in unspoilt locations.
According to Mr Pellerin, the deal will be worth 4 million Canadian dollars (€2.7 million) and the homes will be delivered next year.
Zoobox, which sprang from Mr Pellerin's and company president Alain Chagnon's combined interests in tourism, property and construction, is hiring 10 to 12 staff to make the homes in a factory in Inchicore on Dublin's southside.
The firm is eyeing five likely sites in the Republic for its holiday homes. Mr Pellerin did not give details on their locations, beyond saying three were in Clare, Galway and Wicklow, with others possibly in Cork and Kerry.
According to its chief executive, Zoobox aims to supply a growing market for eco-tourism. “That is tourism that will not damage the environment,” Mr Pellerin explained. “The whole goal is to immerse people in nature.”
He pointed out that lifestyles that force people to spend 90 per cent of their time indoors and up to six hours a day in front of a screen are driving a demand for outdoor holidays and “glamping”, which combines camping with luxury.
Mr Pellerin said that while consumers wanted to get back to nature, they still sought more comforts than those offered by traditional camping. “It is the highest level of glamping,” he added.
The homes themselves are made of glass, wood, metal alloys and composites. One wall is a series of glass panels that can be opened back. Each can sleep up to six people.
They are “off-grid” which means that they rely on their own solar panels and wind turbines for electricity. Water and waste treatment depend on each site’s infrastructure.
Zoobox will supply the homes and take a share of the rent, which runs to €200 a night for a family of four – although the chalets can sleep up to six.
The company has already raised €5.5 million from individual and institutional investors and is now seeking to raise a further €10 million.
It is also part of State agency Enterprise Ireland’s high-potential start up programme.