Online workers that are “location independent” are known as Digital nomads. These nomads can and do work from anyplace as they lead “asset-light” lives and are invested in experiences rather than possessions. Such a lifestyle makes digital nomads a growing and important segment for the travel industry, and travel administrators and governments alike are adapting their service offerings and visa programmes to attract growing numbers of mobile workers.
WYSE Research Advisor Greg Richards mentioned that the rapid growth of this segment is being driven by inexpensive travel options, the rise of collaborative, freelance work, and by a multitude of remote services and tools, including mobile devices and co-working spaces. Even before COVID-19, there were noticeable trends toward remote work, even among those who were permanently employed with an organisation.
The Coronavirus pandemic has certainly been a major accelerator of this trend. Almost everyone became a remote worker this year, and the post-COVID workplace will likely look very different in the years ahead. Professor Richards notes that US office space is predicted to contract by 17% this year and that eight in ten companies say they plan to continue to allow their staff to work remotely, at least part of the time. Around 71% of workers state they would also like to continue with the flexibility of working from home after the pandemic dwindles.
Pieter Levels, who runs the destination ranking site nomadlist.com, has projected that the global community for digital nomads will reach one billion by 2035. “Before the pandemic, we might have seen this as ideological dreaming,” says Professor Richards. “But maybe now we might think that the reality would get somewhere closer to the one billion mark by 2035.”
Who are the digital nomads?
Research indicates that the digital nomad segment is a bit older than the regular student travel market, this section is well educated and has the means to self-fund travel and associated experiences. Research also reveals that the core of the digital nomad market is aged 26 to 29 years old and that more than seven out of ten have at least a bachelor’s university degree.
Most of these nomads undertake trips of one to two months in duration and the majority of them are based out of North America and Europe. The United States, France, Germany, Spain, the UK, and Australia, for example, are all among the top destination choices for nomads and these nations are also to be found at the top of the table of global study destinations.
These travellers rely heavily on online sources (bloggers and video bloggers, in particular) for planning their trips. Furthermore, This is a segment whose average travel spend well exceeds those of regular students as they are working, both before and during their journeys.
So here we have a rapidly growing travel segment which is well-educated, well-funded, and committed to travel and new experiences. Which leads us to ask a few questions for examples, are there opportunities for universities to adapt their courses to better target digital nomads through an expansion of co-working spaces and services for mobile workers? Or should higher education institutions expand their offering of micro-credentials or other alternative qualifications for remote workers who would like to combine flexible work commitments with upgrading their skills abroad? Whatever the case, Professor Richards advises anyone targeting this segment to think in terms of building community and relationships within the digital nomad segment and to “think digital”.