Digital nomads are a rising trend and there are opportunities for the travel and tourism industry to leverage this trend within the new COVID reality.
The City of Cape Town is actively wooing this market and has recently called on Government to urgently introduce a remote working visa for inbound travellers.
“Tourism players in both government and the private sector have to shift their approach to be more marketable to those who are blending aspects of work and vacations into a workcation,” says Mayoral Committee member for Economic Opportunities and Asset Management, James Vos.
The rise of the digital nomad
A digital nomad is someone who works remotely and leads a nomadic lifestyle, working from foreign countries, coffee shops, etc., and often combining work and leisure into ‘workcations’.
The concept has been around for some time but has become more popular since COVID-19 forced most office-bound workers to move their workspace to their homes, and thus learn how to work from just about anywhere.
According to Booking.com, 52% of international travellers would extend their business travel stay if they could undertake a leisure experience at the same time. Furthermore, 37% of global travellers have already considered booking somewhere to stay to work from a different destination.
According to a Growmotely survey, 74% of professionals globally believe that remote work will become the ‘new normal’, while 97% of both employees and entrepreneurs value being able to work from anywhere.
Chairperson of the Federated Hospitality Association South Africa (FEDHASA) Cape, Jeremy Clayton, says since the start of the COVID pandemic, the idea of a work-life balance has very much evolved into a work-life blend.
Remote work – understanding where, why, and how
Clayton says the most popular places for digital nomads to work are in hotels, hostels, and coffee shops. Working in an Airbnb is the next most popular choice, followed by working from vehicles, libraries, and co-working spaces.
Andrae Smith, founder of Work Wanderers, says community is especially important to digital nomads. “Things like co-working and co-living spaces are a very good idea.”
At a minimum, remote workers need office facilities, fast WiFi, leisure activity options, home comforts, affordability, and COVID safety. They are tech savvy and always look for the best deal when booking longer-team rentals and stays.
Generally, there are three main types of digital nomad, Smith explains: freelancers, aged 25-35, who look for budget-friendly options; remote workers, aged anywhere from 28 to 60, who can typically afford more high-end products; and online entrepreneurs, whose budgets and ages vary.
In terms of how much a remote worker is looking to spend on their workcation, Smith says budgets vary greatly. Digital nomads can spend anything from R8 000-R25 000 (€485-€1 500) on accommodation, R5 000-R10 000 (€303-€607) on food and restaurants, and R5 000-R15 000 (€303-€910) on activities and entertainment.
Catering for the specific needs of these remote workers can be greatly beneficial for the economy as, on average, each one tends to spend up to R50 000 (€3 000) during their stay, Smith concludes.