Destinations all over the world are making efforts to catch up with the latest trends in digital nomad lifestyles, according to a new analysis by the UN’s World Tourism Organisation.
Anyone considering upping sticks and taking their work with them on an exciting new travel adventure will, says the study, find that around half the 54 destinations covered in the analysis now offer visas that allow newcomers to live and work there for at least a year. The so-called “Digital Nomad Visas”, or DNVs, make it possible to continue working while travelling or living in a new place, whether it involves maintaining links with a previous employer who permits flexible working locations, or working as a freelance.
The popularity of Digital Nomad Visas is on the rise, nearly half of all destinations now offer visas for at least one year. 💻— World Tourism Organization (@UNWTO) November 8, 2023
Our latest analysis of 54 destinations shows a surge in DNVs, reflecting the growing trend of digital nomadism worldwide. 🏝️
It may seem like a no-brainer for countries wishing to attract new talent to open their doors to those already willing and curious to try life in a new place, rather than try to convince people to move who are not looking to make a change. But laying the groundwork for digital nomads to have a good experience is no mean feat, UNWTO notes. Challenges for host destinations include making sure digital infrastructure is sufficiently “robust” to support a wide range of needs. Readily available and reliable high-speed internet is a must, especially given the nature of the work digital nomads undertake – often in domains like the liberal professions or design which entail dealing with colossal file sizes and heavyweight software on a daily basis.
Another important factor is the development of a variety of working spaces that afford digital nomads friendly and professional spots, not just to work beyond the four walls of their camper van or rental apartment, but also to network, meet clients and make new friends. Talking of camper vans, not all digital nomads want to lead the stereotypical “van life” moving on from mountain to beach to forest to city. Many are seeking a feel for what integrating more permanently somewhere might be like.
Either way, destinations looking to cater to digital nomads need to look hard at their accommodation provision and the balance of amenities their area offers. Digital nomads, by their very nature, are ready to immerse themselves in a new cultural landscape, often carving out a new work-life balance. Destinations looking to take advantage of the trend then, need to make sure their cultural and leisure scenes are good enough to attract and retain these adventurers, while continuing to meet the needs of existing residents.
So, what have destinations been doing? UNWTO examined seven main aspects of DNV processes and requirements in 54 countries. These provide a useful mental checklist for anyone considering moving abroad and are: accommodation; the application process; criminal record checks; income requirements, insurance, visa duration, and tax implications.
UNWTO found that a majority of destinations (76%) make it easy for these digital natives to apply for a DNV by allowing online applications and 80% realise that they are competing hard with other choices of country, as well as battling all the circumstances that may prevent someone from going through with a change of scene, so they process applications speedily — within one month. Only 6% offer free visas though.
UNWTO also found that 47% of host destinations offer visas for up to a year and, perhaps surprisingly, in nearly 40% of destinations, digital nomads will pay no additional tax.
With the trend for digital nomadization growing, UNWTO’s analysis also points out an essential area yet to evolve. Destinations have so far not done enough to examine the implications of this rapid social change and should agree “future impact” assessment mechanisms to enable them to understand better what their position as a digital nomad haven will mean.