Who are the digital nomads? Are their numbers increasing? What is the future of this market for the Caribbean?
Digital nomads challenge a single definition, but all choose to combine remote work and travel, although length of stay varies, according to McLean Robbins, vice president of Enterprise Marketing and MBO Partners.
“United by a passion for travel and new adventures, digital nomads appreciate the ability to work anywhere they can connect to the Internet,” said Robbins, citing research from MBO Partners.
The digital nomad trend is on the rise
The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated major changes in the makeup of the digital nomadic workforce. Panelists at a recent Caribbean Tourism Organization webinar confirmed this, as did statistics from MBO Partners which revealed that 15.5 million American workers currently describe themselves as digital nomads, an increase of 42% compared to 2020 and 112% compared to 2019, before the pandemic.
The Caribbean has recognized that offering programs to digital nomads that could power their laptops on a beach during an extended stay could bring travelers and income to their islands despite required Covid lockdowns and stringent entry requirements.
Barbados launched its Welcome Stamp program in July 2020, followed by the One Year Work from Bermuda program a month later.
Other destinations followed in the months that followed: Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Aruba, the Bahamas; the Cayman Islands; Curacao; Dominica, the Dominican Republic; Montserrat; and Puerto Rico. Individual hotels and resorts have also entered the trend, offering benefits and reduced rates for longer stays.
How does a digital nomad decide where to travel?
“The safety of an island is a primary consideration,” said Ronald Ndoro Mind, founder of Workmango.com. “We offer a checklist that digital nomads should consider before embarking on this business.”
Mind, a digital nomad himself who recently moved to Antigua to work and live for two years, did a lot of research before making his decision.
“I had to pay attention to a lot of things,” he said, ticking off things like tax issues, health insurance and the ease of traveling to or from a destination.
His company acts as a one-stop-shop for potential nomads. It charges a membership fee of $ 495 which promotes access to locals and like-minded people on the island and helps with all the ins and outs of such a movement, like sending videos of the destination and the answer to all questions so that customers understand what they are getting when they go there.
Dimitrios Buhalis, professor of tourism at the University of Bournemouth in England, said digital nomads need to know if they can order and receive material from companies such as Amazon. They should feel secure in the health facilities at the destination, have a choice of accommodation, and know the entry protocols, especially testing and quarantine requirements.
“This customer has to understand what he is getting,” he said.
Make the experience as smooth as possible for the traveler, was the advice of Carlos Munoz, Director of Public Policy at Airbnb. “Governments need to make infrastructure improvements, improve roads, ensure that the Internet, broadband and connectivity are strong and reliable,” he said.
Robbins added that destination websites should include all the requirements for digital nomads considering relocation, adding that “if the information and infrastructure is not there, the destination should not be marketed as such.”
Buhalis concluded the session with this advice to potential digital nomads: “Give it a try. There are a lot of benefits to getting in the sun every day.”