Skift Take

From abandoned medieval villages to humanitarian crises, David Cantor's Relocate wants to build a community of legal experts to respond to new mass movements of people around the globe.

Series: Future of Work

Future of Work

Editor’s Note: Skift Future of Work briefing is available exclusively every Friday.

As organizations start to embrace distributed work and virtual meetings, the corporate travel and meetings sectors are preparing for change. How will travel managers respond to new patterns of employee mobility? What role will hotels play in catering to distributed workforces and distributed meetings? Can destinations, and airlines, capitalize on the anticipated boom in digital nomads? Does the coming future of work increase or decrease the travel spend?

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A fledgling community of legal experts wants to tap into emerging remote work trends, and ultimately smooth the way for corporations looking to give their employees more flexibility and freedom.

Startup Relocate is just five months old, but its co-founder has big plans.

David Cantor wants to build a network of immigration lawyers in digital nomad-friendly countries, but is already pinpointing bigger-picture trends that closely align with the future of work. However, he has warned that governments are working at “glacial speed.”

Global migration, whether it’s for economic, social or political reasons, is front of mind for the lawyer. “The future of work encapsulates so much. Remote working, co-sharing, virtual offices. We’re interested in how the future of work influences immigration pathways, and how to navigate that,” he said.

The Corporate Takeover

One of his visions includes the fate of Europe’s forgotten villages. Many attempts have been made to drum up interest with various campaigns, and they can even involve selling picturesque townhouses for just a few euros.

Italy-based Cantor has another idea.

“I’ve been in countless beautiful, cobblestone villages in Europe. Because of the drain of economic labor, our generation unfortunately has left, in search of work,” he said. “I envision in five or 10 years you’ll have agile companies, maybe 100 employees, or 1,000 employees, which will take over these villages. They’ll maybe pay an eighth of what they would pay if they were to host their employees in the city, or a hotel. You can imagine a bunch of engineers in the piazza coding.”

Reinvigorating abandoned villages aside, Relocate’s own plan involves building up a network of advisors across 11 countries in communities where digital nomads are starting to globe-trot.

“Governments are just starting to recognize the remote working capacity. Most move at a glacial speed, and rightfully so, but at the opposite end of the spectrum some provide visa pathways for digital nomads to live, and contribute to the economy, in a very turnkey way.”

Relocate is now calling on experts to sign up. Immigration layers or law firms and advisors pay a membership fee, and organizations then access this network, for example if they have human resource or operational issues to address when their staff relocate or work remotely.

Human Stories

As well as helping companies, Relocate wants to address humanitarian issues. Work is already underway by some platforms to highlight the value that refugees can bring to a business, for example.

“We’re at this intersection of the movement of people. Part of our identity is this human narrative. Most of the migrants in the world are nomads who move somewhere because of need, not want,” Cantor said. So he’s also calling on practitioners who can provide refugee and asylum work to join.

“I have conversations with directors at the not-for profit International Justice Mission in Washington, D.C., which focuses on modern day slavery. How do you provide a platform that’s meaningful is still something we’re figuring out, organically.”

As Relocate embarks on its journey to create an independent marketplace for global migration, its network already speaks for itself. “We’ve a French avocat based in Mexico City. An Australian lawyer lives in Amman in Jordan. Even lawyers are digital,” Cantor said.

His aim is for law firms and immigration lawyers to connect and transfer knowledge to each other, helping to make the world a little smaller.

Speaking at Skift Global Forum in September, FutureMap’s Parag Khanna discussed the “great migration” and how the travel industry play a role. Relocate’s launch is timely. “There is this pulse, this energy, and quality of work-life balance that is out there for the brave,” Cantor added.

Sidenotes

Over to the Canary Islands for an update on TUI’s “workcation” program, courtesy of Roel Martens, the tour operator’s project lead. His latest thinking is that these new kinds of packages, which promote stays of 21 or 28 days at 50 of its all-inclusive hotels and resorts, will take time to develop.

“We shouldn’t be in too much of a hurry. We have the pandemic still going on, it’s difficult to travel for many people, but it’s also a movement that has to get started, and especially for big companies,” he said at the Repeople Conference, which took place simultaneously across Gran Canaria, Tenerife and La Palma on Tuesday.

He argued that freelance workers were able to make their decisions themselves, but companies were still in virgin territory. To help convince them, he said TUI needed to dive deeper into identifying which personas the workcations would appeal to.

“We’re moving from a niche market to mainstream, and the customer will change, there will be segmentation,” agreed Christian Buss, founder at Adatto Consulting, a fellow panelist during the “How can the tourism industry benefit from remote workers” session.

“Over the past 18 months we’ve talked about digital nomads, and it seems like we talk about one type of customer. But what we’re starting to see is that there is segmentation,” he added. “There are opportunities for companies for hotel chains to address various segments of workcations, if we give it this name. There will be more of a business segment, a family segment, and couples and individuals traveling. We’re talking about different length of stays.”

TUI has a large presence in Europe, but it’s a region that will not be able to compete with Asia on price. It will therefore have to compete on service, the conference heard. Thailand is one destination that has reawakened to a new tourism landscape. “Demand patterns have changed. Individual travellers on longer stays and ‘workations’ need more personalisation,” said Centara Hotels chief financial officer Gun Srisompong.

The evolution is happening, but the travel industry will need to rethink remote workers in the same way it thinks about which types of traveler are likely to book a luxury retreat or a budget hotel. 

“You can have a workcation specialized for families, where there is maybe day care for children, or theme-related, and B2B. And that’s where we are going,” Martens added.

10-Second Corporate Travel Catch-Up

Who and what Skift has covered over the past week: AirAsia, Air Canada, American Express Global Business Travel, hybrid events, Dream Hotel Group, JP Morgan, Shell, South African Airways, Southwest Airlines, Virgin Atlantic.

In Brief

ATG Offers New Subscription-Based Messaging Platform 

Netherlands-based ATG Travel Worldwide has launched a messaging tool called Baldwin. The travel management company said it leverages big data and uses artificial intelligence to determine the highest probability of traveler preferences. The tool, which is available as a subscription for clients that use its TravelSPACE platform, then offers options that are personalized and more efficient in meeting the traveler’s needs. “We are changing the paradigm of how business travel is booked. Baldwin shifts from a shopping-driven decision process to a smart-based one,” said CEO Tammy Krings.

TravelPerk Develops Dedicated Events Tool

Corporate agency TravelPerk has become the latest platform to bolt on a new feature to help its clients connect their remote and hybrid teams in real life. The new product, called Events, is designed to help them organize any type of event, such as sales kickoff, offsites or seasonal company parties in a seamless way. Planners will have a one-stop destination for events management, allowing them to invite attendees and track responses and the status of bookings, plus allow them to share trip detail and travel plans, including arrival and departure times and accommodation details. “What used to take hours, thousands of emails, and a whole lot of stress headaches can now take just a few minutes through TravelPerk Events,” the company said.

Serko to Raise $58 Million to Enhance Booking.com Partnerthsip 

Travel management and expense technology firm Serko plans to raise $58 million, through a placement of shares to investment funds, and with shares set aside for existing shareholders. The company, which is headquartered in New Zealand, said the money will be used to invest in growth in the unmanaged travel segment through its Booking.com for Business partnership; accelerate the development of its global marketplace strategy; and pursue opportunities for “inorganic” global expansion. The fundraise announcement came as the company posted a first-half net loss of $10.4 million, for the six months ended Sept. 30.

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Tags: booking.com, canary islands, coronavirus, corporate travel management, Future of Work Briefing, immigration, investment, serko, Skift Pro Columns, travel management, travelperk

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