Expats, those who leave their own countries and move to others for new jobs, self-discovery, or even retirement, are a unique traveler demographic that shares characteristics with both traditional leisure travelers and local populations.
Some countries consistently show up on lists or rankings of best places to live and work, such as Ecuador and Switzerland, but do these destinations generally care about marketing their attractions and offerings to expats, or consider the more than 50 million global expats a valuable market?
That answer is a mixed-bag at best since there are several variations of the definition of an expat.
“Although expats are very welcomed in Ecuador, the Ministry of Tourism of Ecuador does not include them as a target segment of its promotion strategy, mostly because the Ministry of Tourism is working to obtain more information and data on the segment as well as the impact they have on public and private services, the economy, culture and the increase of the cost of living in cities where expats settle,” said Maria Cristina Rivadeneira, a spokesperson for Ecuador’s Ministry of Tourism.
“We are aware expats are a different segment with very specific needs. However, we have not defined specific strategies targeting the expat segment because of the reasons mentioned above.”
Brand USA said it doesn’t have any plans to market the country to expats, instead devoting its resources to reaching international travelers who visit the U.S. and then depart.
Tourism New Zealand works to attract expats through the marketing department at Immigration New Zealand, representing a country that’s been a popular expat destination for decades notably for its high rankings regarding raising children there.
Top 10 Countries Voted Best for Expats in 2015
Ecuador, like last year, is again ranked as the top country for expats based on a variety of factors, according to InterNations, a German-based global network of 1.8 million expats in 390 cities around the world.
The South American country scored well in all main categories such as quality of life, safety, personal finance, working abroad, and making friends in InterNations’ survey of more than 14,300 expats representing 170 nationalities and living in 195 countries or territories.
“The term expat is more commonly known in Asian countries where being an expat is also linked to being a western expat, even though there are a lot of people who move from South Korea to China and so on,” said Malte Zeeck, founder and co-CEO of InterNations.
“It’s a more common terminology in places like Hong Kong and Singapore and these places do a lot to welcome foreigners, whereas in Europe the term expat itself isn’t really used. In Europe it’s more people moving from one European country to another European country looking for work where you see trends of people from Spain, Portugal and Italy moving north for better employment chances. But of course you still see people from the U.S. and Asia moving to Europe.”
Zeeck purports there are obviously big differences between expats and tourists. Expats want to find information about quality of life, lodging and the education system in their new countries compared to tourists who are more looking for material about tourist attractions and hotel prices in the area.
Overall friendliness of locals significantly factors into Ecuador and Mexico’s high popularity and this helps dictate the entire culture and perceptions that local populations have of expats, according to Zeeck.
Mexico, which respondents ranked the second most popular expat destination this year, typically gets attention for its beach destinations rather than for many Americans and Canadians relocating there which is evidently the case, Zeeck said. He added respondents considered all factors equally important when deciding where to move to.
Even though a quarter of survey respondents feared their personal safety in the country, some 90% appreciate the friendliness of the local population and 80% said it’s generally easy to learn the local culture.
“Expats’ three major concerns when living abroad is that they miss their support network back home, they’re worried about their future financial situations for things like retirement, and also whether they’ll be able to have a relationship or meet new people in a new country,” said Zeeck.
“Once the expat is in their new country, they travel a lot. You do day trips or weekend trips within your country and also travel back home at least once or twice a year to see your family or friends.”
Immigration New Zealand’s website is one of the best examples of a government working to promote inbound expat arrivals and making it easy for expats to find help they need. The site, “New Zealand Now,” effectively explains different visa applications, the healthcare system, what skills are currently needed and basic tips for getting settled all in one place. There’s even a section about common concerns migrants or refugees have if they want to make a new life in the country.
The expats relocating to Ecuador aren’t doing so to get rich.
One-third of respondents to InterNation’s survey who live in Ecuador said their incomes are significantly lower than what they were earning in their home countries. Still, more than half (56%) of all expats said their income is higher than back home while 27% said they’re worse-off financially.
Some 22%, the largest percentage of respondents, indicated they currently earn between $25,000 and $50,000 in their new country. Expats in countries like Ecuador, Argentina, Costa Rica and the Czech Republic fall within this range, while Nigeria, Hong Kong, Singapore and India are where a large percentage of respondents said they’re earning more than $250,000 per year.
Regardless of how much they’re earning, expats in Ecuador, Mexico, China and the Philippines are among the most satisfied with their financial situations compared to all expats surveyed.