Skift Take

Can nomad visas change the storytelling about beach and party destinations enough to attract long-term and culturally respectful visitors? We are about to find out.

Dozens of destinations worldwide are targeting members of the burgeoning digital nomad market with perks such as payments to relocate and exemptions from local income taxes.

But governments view appealing to these workers as more than just a way to increase visitor arrival numbers. Destinations increasingly see digital nomads as travelers who will be more invested in the well-being of local communities as well as a group of visitors with large spending power.

Indonesia is one of those locations, having unveiled plans for a special five-year visa for remote workers. Its Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno cites digital nomads as a key part of its strategy to veer away from being primarily a beach destination.

“In the past, the three S’s were sun, sea and sand,” Uno said. “We’re moving to serenity, spirituality and sustainability. This way, we’re getting better quality and (a) better impact (on) the local economy.”

But even countries like Indonesia doesn’t succeed in largely changing the types of visitors they attract, Olga Hannonen, a University of Eastern Finland-based researcher who has studied digital nomads, believes their efforts to lure remote workers will pay dividends. Hannonen referenced Croatia as a destination that introduced digital nomad visas to increase the number of visitors during its offseason.

Meanwhile, Italy, which passed a law creating a one-year digital nomad visa this March, also stands to benefit from efforts to lure remote workers. The country has invested more than $1 billion in infrastructure and high-speed internet for small rural towns to attract digital nomads. Those locations succeeding in luring digital nomads can’t come soon enough for both nonprofit group Fondazione di Venezia and Venice-based Università Ca’ Foscari. The two entities co-created an online platform named Venywhere that aims help Venice attract remote workers while helping the city, plagued by overtourism, diversify its economy.

Hannonen sees two emerging trends in the large-scale efforts to lure digital nomads. “One is the top-down approach, when a destination markets itself as a digital nomad hub,” she said, listing Madeira and Gran Canaria as examples. “The other one is the bottom-up flow — when nomads are coming to a place without any specific actions from local tourism and marketing organizations.”

“I would say that digital nomad visa scheme belongs to the first trend, but also serves those destinations that belong to the second category.”

Dozens of countries worldwide — including Argentina, Belize, Brazil and Costa Rica — have recently joined the competition to lure remote workers. But the criteria for obtaining a digital nomad visa vary significantly among destinations. Belize requires individuals applying for such a visa to have an annual income of $75,000 while couples and families must earn at least $100,000. And while Brazil demands that digital nomad applicants provide proof of a $1,500 monthly income or bank funds greater than $18,000, Argentina only requires candidates to display evidence of employment.

But Latin America isn’t just seeing countries ramping up efforts to attract remote workers. Authorities in Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires have set a goal of attracting 22,000 digital nomads by 2023, which city officials believe could inject $139 million into the local economy.

“Considering recent developments both in destination infrastructure (and the) growing number of countries launching digital nomad visas, I think that not only nations, but also specific sites will compete for long-term travelers and digital nomads,” Hannonen said. 

Tags: digital nomads, indonesia, italy, latin america, local communities, sustainability, tourism, venice

Photo credit: A traveler surrounded by forests Pxhere