The way digital nomads live and think seems to create business opportunities!
The term "digital nomad" was first used in 1997 and was later recognised as a social phenomenon. Digital nomadism emerged as a modern phenomenon of the information society which enables remote working. Digital nomads are professionals who work digitally via the Internet, which allows them a lifestyle of constant travel and expatriation. And since travel is a key component of this lifestyle, several efforts are being made to understand the dynamics of Digital Nomads as tourists.
Digital nomadism has facilitated the development of new services and products. New businesses are emerging in popular nomadic destinations. Digital nomads are attracted to such places because they act as spaces for creating links with people with a common lifestyle and a common way of thinking.
Digital nomads often use shared workspaces (coworking spaces). Coworking is an arrangement in which employees from different companies share an office space, allowing cost savings and convenience through the use of shared infrastructure such as equipment, utilities and reception and custodial services, and in some cases parcel delivery services.
The number of coworking spaces has increased significantly. In 2010, only 21,000 people worked in shared workspaces worldwide, but by 2019, the number had reached 2.17 million! In a survey, digital nomads were asked about the difference between working in a coffee shop/hotel or a coworking space. Participants answered that when they travel, they go to co-working spaces because they want a good working environment. They also mentioned that coworking spaces are better for serious work, while the experience of the coffee shop is that it is distracting.
Two trends in the rise of coworking have been observed: a global expansion of coworking and the emergence of a few cities as "coworking hotspots". These trends suggest that coworking could be an attraction for digital nomads and could significantly boost countries' tourism development. One example of such a hotspot is Bali, Indonesia, where the Ministry of Tourism stresses the importance of attracting digital nomads. Other such examples are in Thailand, Mexico, Indonesia and Portugal. Many countries recognised the potential of attracting Digital Nomads especially during Covid 19 when travel was restricted and made moves to attract them.
In June 2020, Estonia introduced a "digital nomadic visa" that allows a maximum stay of one year for workers who perform their duties remotely using telecommunication technology (E-residency, 2020). Under the pressure of economic difficulties due to the coronavirus pandemic, in July 2020, the Barbados government introduced a visa it called the "12-month welcome to Barbados" to attract remote workers to stay on the island (Government of Barbados Information Service, 2020).
Why is it so important to understand digital nomad travelers? Because as a trend it is expected to grow post-pandemic.
In July 2020, the Georgian government announced a new visa policy aimed at attracting remote workers and self-employed people to live and work there to boost the economy in a safe and controlled manner. As of 2020, sixteen countries opened their borders to digital nomads, including Mexico, Portugal and Iceland; in January 2021 Croatia joined a digital nomad visa initiative (Home Office, 2021). Recent policy changes in these countries recognise the potential and importance of digital nomads for the tourism industry. Greece recognizing the importance of the issue in September 2021 passed legislation for freelancers or employees who work remotely using Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) with employers or clients outside of Greece (digital nomads) for a period of up to twelve (12) months granting a residence permit of up to 12 months.
If we examine the correlation between digital nomads' perceptions of their personal lifestyle and the destinations suitable for it, we can draw very useful conclusions. To begin with, there are significant differences between Digital Nomads and other types of travellers. Digital Nomads have a strong focus on work during their travels. However, they choose their trips based on the leisure opportunities at the destination, which differentiates them from business travellers.
Certainly digital nomads are people with different lifestyles and personal values and therefore no one experience will fit all. However, studies have found that coworking space provides advantages over other remote workplaces for most people and people are willing to pay for it, considering it a valuable experience. Following the findings we can say that the shared workspace experience and its enrichment can significantly help in promoting destinations for digital nomads.
Digital nomadism is a phenomenon that has not been sufficiently explored in modern tourism but has started to be discussed due to increasing mobility. Why is it so important to understand digital nomad travellers? Because as a trend it is expected to grow post-pandemic. A more comprehensive understanding of this type of travel, with long-term engagement is essential. It is now internationally recognised that traditional and established types of tourism do not suit the new type of traveller.