A growing proportion of the global workforce fancies living and working out of a suitcase.
It’s about merging lifestyle choices with bucket list destinations and remote working opportunities. We take a look at the evolution of the working holiday to understand the needs of freedom-loving digital nomads and workcationers.
How it became a trend
The pandemic is responsible for the desire and ability of many professionals to work away from home. After being restricted by lockdowns, working online at home, dreaming of escape from sheltering in place, people have realised that they could just as well isolate and work elsewhere.
Many companies are opting not for a full return to the in-office work model, but a hybrid model, which enables staff to work in-office or remotely. This flexibility affords professionals the freedom to choose other locations from which to work.
Those who follow the trend claim major benefits: saving on vacation days; uninterrupted workflow; boosting productivity; feeling motivated by new surroundings; fueling creativity; combating stress and promoting well-being, with travellers feeling refreshed upon their return.
From bleisure travel to workcations
During the pre-pandemic boom days of business travel, bleisure was already proving popular among professionals wanting to extend a work trip for leisure purposes. Bleisure travellers typically stay longer, expecting to take in local sights and events, sample the local culture, usually in urban centres. They also tend to spend their free time engaging in the kind of activities they might normally do at home, such as exercise, yoga, cookery or language classes.
Currently, business travel is tentatively opening up in a few destinations – predicted to open fully only around 2024 – and even then, there are restrictions involved. In the instance that isolation upon arrival is required, the option of extending the period of stay becomes a sensible, practical one, and also becomes more amenable to bleisure.
Now, rather than travelling somewhere specifically for work, people are choosing to travel to destinations they would like to explore outside of work hours. It’s an integrated work-life model that holds appeal worldwide, across cultures.
In a global study of eight countries, 65% of 5,500 respondents say they plan to extend a work trip into a leisure one, or vice versa, in 2022 – BBC Worklife
Professionals may travel solo or with their families, with children attending school online while their parent(s) work online. Or the trip occurs during long school breaks, often closer to home or regionally. After being cooped up at home for months, a change of scenery and opportunities to learn and experience new things together become welcome relief.
Who are the digital nomads?
Wikipedia describes digital nomads as a broad cross-section, including younger remote workers, backpackers, retired or semi-retired persons, ‘snowbirds’ (who migrate to warmer weather when it’s cold at home), and entrepreneurs.
In 2020, a research study found that 10.9 million American workers described themselves as digital nomads, an increase of 49% from 2019 – Wikipedia
The pandemic also birthed a new generation of freelancers – essentially self-employed, free to work anywhere, in any time zone. They’re fully digital, with laptops as their primary work tools, and can base their ‘office’ just about anywhere with Internet connectivity. They mostly travel solo, domestically and internationally.
Already, some destinations have recognised the value of digital nomads who stay longer, immerse themselves in local living and spread their tourism spend among local economies. Countries like Estonia, Thailand, Brazil, Croatia, Barbados, Greece and others have either proposed super attractive perks or created special visas for digital nomads.
Because digital nomads tend to be well plugged in, travel brands can score valuable tags and mentions on their social media posts, as they share pictures of themselves living their best life.
Servicing their needs on the move
Nomads by definition live on the move, and that’s precisely how some digital nomads choose to travel: on an extended road trip, making multiple stops, in campervans or camping along the way. According to Microsoft Advertising, they can work “in coffee shops, temporary rentals, recreational vehicles and modified vans, from beaches, farms, home or apartment rentals, boats”. Even a tree house would appeal.
You can hook workcationers and nomads up with any type of short-term rental or mobile accommodation, and present the most unique self-drive routes your destination has to offer.
Facts to note
- Digital nomads will spend anything from a work week to a month, season, or the length of a visa in one hub; or divide their time over a number of proximate locations.
- They need somewhere to park their laptops, charge their devices, connect to (preferably free and strong) Wi-Fi.
- They need comprehensive travel and health insurance to cover their length of stay.
- They need access to co-working spaces and quiet meeting rooms for video calls.
- They need good rates for their long stays, and how about a single supplement waiver for the solo travellers?
- Many of them travel with pets.
Finally, they need information – especially if they’re not familiar with your destination – and they need it beforehand while they plan their visit. The whole point of being there is to explore and experience everything the destination has to offer. They want to know about:
- activities, day trips and excursions in your area;
- places to eat, shop, exercise, worship and interact with the locals;
- entertainment and nightlife spots;
- popular sites and attractions to visit; and
- where to find the best coffee.
It doesn’t substitute a ‘real holiday’ – not for those who need a complete break from work to get that holiday feeling. But what used to be niche has edged into mainstream, and travel marketers would do well to pay attention to this group, especially since they represent a good market for low tourism seasons.