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The rise of digital nomads: shaping the hospitality industry

The pandemic brought a new abbreviation into our lives: WFH. Working From Home became the norm for many knowledge-based and IT activities, and has spread across industries and sectors. For organisations initially concerned that employees wouldn’t perform their WFH tasks well enough, the situation has changed: A McKinsey report showed 58% of senior executives remarked that staff were more productive when Working From Home. But now comes the new new thing: Working From Anywhere.

Digital Nomads - born with a smartphone in their hand

Working from anywhere is a logical step, and one pioneered by Digital Natives globally. Digital Natives are those people who have never known anything but the information age. They were born with the internet always on, and a smartphone or other device never out of reach. It soon became obvious to Digital Natives that in a connected world there is no need to remain in one spot to work, leading to the rise of Digital Nomads - who travel and work, at the same time.

Business and leisure are combined into Bleisure, one of the fast growing travel trends in 2023 now acknowledged by many large companies: If WFH benefitted employer and employee alike, then Working From Anywhere could be just as fruitful. An Upwork report predicts an increase of 87% over pre-pandemic remote workers in the USA alone, and across the world 4.8 million independent workers say they are already Digital Nomads. In the same report, people aspiring to become Digital Nomads is estimated at 17 million, with one prediction pitching 1 billion by 2035.


Why shiver?

Imagine yourself as a Digital Nomad (if you are not one already): The company you work for, or your primary client, is based in Paris. In the recent past maybe you’d take a weekend leisure trip to Amsterdam, but is it logical to rush back to Paris, just to continue doing the remote work that can be equally well accomplished in Holland? If the work can be done anywhere, then why not be anywhere.

In its purest form, the nomadic lifestyle could mean an end to regular apartment rentals or mortgages, or to dreary winters. Why shiver in the northern hemisphere if you could be warming yourself in the south? Becoming one of the many Digital Nomads opens a world of opportunities.

Digital Nomad jobs

What constitutes a Digital Nomad job? There are many IT-related and Creative Industry examples such as copywriters and editors, but really anything done over the internet and with laptops can become nomadic: Accountancy, Insurance, Teaching, Engineering, even Medical applications and consultations. And none of those people need to be located in the same country as their clients!


Bleisure and hospitality

So what does the hotel and hospitality industry need to learn about the fast expanding Bleisure trend? The number one requirement of all Digital Nomads is to have a very good internet connection, and rock-steady wifi. Hotels and apartments which ‘make do’ with almost-good-enough internet will not make the cut. 

And if you’re imagining that Digital Nomads work solo all day in their room, that’s not the case. That could be rather lonely, and there is a steady rise of hotels and apartments offering communal spaces to guests, or as daily or even hourly packages. Digital Nomads can mix and mingle with fellow professionals, in a comfortable co-working environment where refreshments are always available. 

Naturally Digital Nomads are used to doing all their transactions on the web, which includes searching for and booking their next location, which is done overwhelmingly through Online Travel Agents. Venues which are seamlessly linked with OTAs get more hits, and the more digital their presence, the better. That includes smooth billing and payment, with extras through mobile apps such as a Guest Advisor tool to give prompts about fun things to see and do. Check-in and check-out has to be in the digital domain too, including keyless access to rooms. The pandemic opened the floodgates to Working From Anywhere, and now WFA is challenging many norms of the hospitality industry.

The Digital Nomad visa bandwagon

Leisure stays are typically short, but for Bleisure this changes. Once a Digital Nomad finds a place to ‘roost’, they’ll likely settle there for a while. This has given rise to a new trend of Digital Nomad-friendly countries, and the resulting Digital Nomad ‘visa bandwagon’.

As we mentioned in our 2022 recap the pandemic hit the travel and tourism industry hard. With the catastrophic fall-off of leisure travellers during the pandemic, many countries (over 50 and counting) have realised that issuing Digital Nomad visas for specific work periods attracts a new, affluent demographic. Popular Digital Nomad-friendly countries include Portugal, Estonia and Malta, with Indonesia (especially Bali), and Mexico competing to provide the best environments.


Digital Nomad FAQs

Let's conclude with a few Digital Nomad Frequently Asked Questions, and answers:

  • A Digital Nomad can be an employee, although the majority are freelance / self-employed
  • They choose their own location for work, and negotiate times of working with their client
  • Networking and co-working spaces are important to Digital Nomads, otherwise it can get lonely out there!
  • Digital Nomads choose where they stay through the seamlessness of the internet experience offered
  • Digital Nomads expect related digital services to be easy to use, including check-in & out, booking and billing
  • Being a Digital Nomad is not tax-free - they pay in the country of their tax residence 
  • Countries which encourage Digital Nomads - for example by running Digital Nomad visa schemes - benefit from relatively affluent visitors, who engage with the wider community
  • Hotels and apartment owners that encourage Digital Nomads get longer individual stays, with decreased day-in, day-out admin
  • Good surrounding amenities for sport and leisure activities are important to Digital Nomads
  • Reliable local public transport is a big draw too

The Digital shift

More and more people, especially those categorised as Digital Natives, are attracted to becoming Digital Nomads. Perhaps you’re one of them? If so, we hope this has helped show some of the ‘hows and whys’. And if you’re a hotel or apartment owner, then we trust you’re now more up to speed on this dynamic new sector.

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