The rise of the “half-tourist” who combines work and a change of scenery | Working vacations
UUntil the pandemic, the term “remote worker” evoked the image of a young hipster lugging a Mac around a cohabitation space somewhere in Bali or Berlin. But when the coronavirus forced half of the UK to work from home in April, a whole new cohort of people, who had spent their entire careers in an office, realized that working from different locations was a real possibility. Boris Johnson’s announcement on September 22 of a new set of Covid restrictions that could last up to six months – including advice for working from home where possible, in a reversal of the previous message – could well inspire many more people to adopt a nomadic professional life.
Destinations affected by the global travel halt have already started targeting nomadic workers to make up for lost tourism income. Barbados was one of the first to launch a “digital nomad” visa in July. Since then, a wave of other countries have announced similar programs, including Estonia, Georgia and Croatia. More recently, Anguilla launched a visa program inviting visitors to live and work on the island for 12 months, “trading gray skies and sweaters for tropical blue and daily temperatures reaching 30”.
The downside to these schemes is that they require proof of high income – at least € 3,504 per month for Estonia, for example; US $ 50,000 per year for Barbados. Some also charge an application fee, and if you want to rent a villa in Anguilla, you will need a very high bank balance. While the new work visas have been the subject of much publicity, most remote workers are interested in short stays abroad, moving from period to period at home and abroad. overseas – although anyone planning to get away should check the ever-changing travel restrictions.
Ed Francis, 37, from London, who runs a London-based hotel consultancy The rebel agency, is part of a new generation of remote workers, or “half-tourists”. After leaving his office in Soho during the lockdown, he spent July and August living and working in Palma, Mallorca, with his girlfriend, and now plans to move permanently. “It took me a while to get used to doing things differently,” he said. “I had to break free from the nine-to-five mood – take a Wednesday morning to go to the local market, for example, then work in the evenings to catch up. Or take a weekday off to the beach (when they were quieter), then work on the weekends. But now I truly believe this is the future of work.
Francis is so convinced by the idea of being able to work from different locations that he is now considering developing work / life pensions as a new business venture, starting in Sicily. “I do not advocate [people] become a global nomad; what we will offer is the possibility of coming to work and staying in a different environment for short stays, a week or two at a time.
Carolyn Brown, 58, is another first-time remote worker now considering extending her lifespan. After closing her London office during the lockdown, she traded her apartment in southwest London for an apartment in Santorini, where she starts her day with a swim and spends nights with friends in taverns. “I went out for a week’s vacation but decided to extend it. This is the first time I can do it all online, so why not? With the jet lag, I usually start around 6 am, but I don’t mind getting up early when I can watch the sun rise over a hilltop monastery. ”
Francis was fortunate enough to stay in a friend’s apartment in Palma, Brown found his apartment after trawling the internet. But a growing number of businesses are catering specifically to mid- to long-term tenants – and they are seeing an increase in demand for their properties. NomadX, which has a collection of properties in Portugal, launched in July 2020, after testing a beta in 2019. It has seen booking requests almost double from pre-pandemic levels. “In the past, our target audience was not as large as digital nomads were still in the early adoption stage. Now we are starting to see things increase dramatically as the number of remote workers increases. Especially since some of the bigger companies, like Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Apple, are getting totally distant, ”said Dave Williams, founder of NomadX.
I went to Santorini for a week’s vacation but decided to extend it. This is the first time I can do it all online, so why not?
Flation, a mid-term rental company in Eastern Europe, saw a 57% increase in UK visitors to its website, based on comparisons between the three months before the pandemic (December to February) and when the lockdown began to ease (June to August)).
Airbnb has also reacted quickly to the growing trend, although, aware of rapidly changing travel restrictions, it is to promote a change of scenery closer to home, in the user’s country.
Perhaps the most interesting development is that traditional travel agencies that, before the pandemic, only catered to tourists, are now courting the expanding remote worker market. Holiday balance is set to expand its wellness retreats to cater to workers eager for a change of scenery, offering early morning, evening and weekend classes, as well as all food (details on site soon). In Portugal Resorts in Martinhal, which has high-end properties in Lisbon, Cascais and the Algarve, is offering a discounted rate for long-term stays for families looking to relocate during the pandemic. Prices start at € 89 for a two-bedroom house based on a six-month stay (€ 98 for three months), which is about half the regular rate. Youth hostels generator is also reducing its rates for those staying seven days or more – a “stay longer, save more” offer will go live on the site next week.
Even motorhome rental companies are getting started. Independent Campers is set to launch a long-term subscription service after seeing a 66% increase in remote worker requests. The #vanlife lifestyle could be about to expand beyond the Instagram tribe.
Five companies offering medium to long term stays
Entrepreneur Dave Williams officially launched NomadX in July 2020 to create a place where digital nomads can find medium-term, low-cost accommodation. The Lisbon start-up has more than 2,000 properties in 16 locations in Portugal, like this one Bright and arty downtown two bedroom apartment in Porto for 750 € per month and this private seaside holiday apartment for € 740. Customers are charged 10% of the overall cost of the reservation (Airbnb charges customers an average of 14.2%). NomadX plans to expand to other countries, such as Spain, Germany and the Czech Republic, next year.
Most of Flatio’s properties are in Prague and Budapest, but it also offers rentals in other central European cities and plans to expand to 100 new cities over the next 10 years. The company caters to remote workers and tourists who want to stay in cities for months rather than weeks, and offers everything from furnished studios to six-bedroom apartments, starting at £ 400 per month. Flatio charges between 4% and 15% of the final booking fee, depending on the length of stay.
Launched in 2014, SpotAHome is an online apartment rental platform in cities across Europe, from Lisbon and Barcelona to Dublin and London. Examples include this contemporary one bedroom apartment in Lisbon from £ 631 per month. The minimum stay is 30 days and the fee starts at around £ 55.
The new DayZero start-up is a different concept. It connects European artisans with travelers who wish to try their hand at the trades of their dreams, whether it is to acquire a new skill to create a business or simply to experience working abroad. If you wanted to open a pizza van, for example, you would go to DayZero, which would introduce you to the owners of a classic family-owned pizzeria in Sicily. You would pay a fee and then learn how to make good Italian pizza by working and following your hosts for a month in Sicily. The idea is that customers experience life abroad while learning a new skill, and local businesses get a financial boost. The 14 hosts are based in Hungary and Italy, but the company plans to add the UK, Ireland and other countries to its inventory after the pandemic. Experiences cost from £ 460 for a month (not including flights and accommodation) plus fees, which is 15% of the total cost. The first trips are expected to take place in 2021.
Over the summer, van rental company Indie Campers saw a 225% increase in bookings over four weeks and a 40% increase in the number of people reporting solo travel. As a result, it plans to launch a new service for nomadic workers this fall. Customers will be able to take out a monthly or annual subscription to a motorhome at daily rates lower than the current rates. The company rents vans all over Europe and offers portable wifi as a supplement.