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After a 20-month legislative struggle, Colombia has its own digital nomad visa. But now it’s over to the newly elected government to fully embrace it. Here’s the backstory.

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Colombia has launched a dedicated visa for digital nomads, which is quite an achievement considering the country’s recent political upheavals.

The visa was spearheaded by entrepreneur Ilana Milkes, who founded World Tech coding bootcamps. And when she presents the new digital nomad visa alongside government agency ProColombia at Mobile World Congress later this month, her brief moment on stage will represent the culmination of nearly two years of work.

She’ll discuss how the visa lets visitors stay for 24 months, compared with six months for tourists, and how it offers state ID, meaning access to banking and the right to register a company in the country. She’ll probably go into less detail about all the effort it took to launch.

Election Time

Work began in March 2020, prior to volatile election campaigning and protests that would eventually see left-wing politician Gustavo Petro take power.

Milkes initially talked to the Mayorship of Medellin about the benefits digital nomads could bring to the city, and the country as a whole. Once approved, more meetings followed.

“You need a lot of patience talking with politicians,” Milkes said. “We talked to the president’s team, ministers, the chancellor’s team, even the mayorship’s team. It was almost like a year and a half of meetings and writing the law itself, and making lots of presentations. This was during the pandemic as well.”

In October 2022 it was finally approved, and the visa, which applies to freelance workers and remote workers, went live in January 2023.

“Neither party had leadership or initiatives to take it as a vision,” Milkes said. “So what we’re doing now is advocating (it) to people, including the public sector, and our vision for digital nomads.”

The lack of government focus isn’t surprising, as the country has been undergoing change. In the voting build-up to elections last year there were also many protests from radical groups.

And disruption continues. This week thousands protested against proposed fiscal reforms, and an amnesty proposed for members of armed groups, according to reports.

Activating Local Economies

However, the new administration shows a clear intention to strengthen the tourism industry. “There is an acknowledgement of tourism as an important source of generation of foreign exchange in the country,” Gilberto Salcedo, vice president of tourism at ProColombia, told Skift in July last year.

The vision has plenty of benefits. In 2019, tourists spent $6.8 billion in Colombia. But according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, “business tourism” which  involves people attending events like congresses and conventions represented 14 percent of that. Digital nomads, Milkes argues, are able to “activate local economies” with their spending.

The country’s tourism department expects the visa to draw at least 45,000 digital nomads to the country in the next 18 months.

Colombia’s offering may sound familiar, as it was inspired by Estonia’s eResidency program. In 2014, Estonia became one of the first countries to offer e-residency to outsiders, and in 2020 became the first country in the European Union to officially offer a nomad visa.

Further ahead, and like Estonia, Milkes wants to develop more services, at first through a privately run program called ePioneers.

“Our vision is to not just keep it as a visa, we want to build a community around it,” she said.


Over to Europe, and specifically the current state of German business travelers.

Corporate payment specialist AirPlus International has looked at the transactions of airline tickets that go through its platform, and found that the habits of German business travelers have changed.

What was different in 2022 could impact trends for the year ahead. To begin with, German travelers are more likely to book business-class seats compared to their European counterparts, according to its new Business Travel Index.

With a share of 13.6 percent, business class tickets were more popular in 2022 than in 2019, by 9.3 percent in fact. And that was more pronounced for domestic flights, which came in at 11.5 percent, compared to 4.7 percent for overseas trips. The average business class share in Europe was 10.7 percent.

AirPlus thinks business class grew first to allow employees to have more space during the pandemic (due to social distancing) but are now seen as a way for companies to show their appreciation to staff after a two difficult years.

Germans are also away from home for longer. An average business trip lasted 6.1 days last year, while in 2019 the average was five days. Trips within Germany took an average of 3.1 days (in 2019 it was 2.5 days), and in Europe the length was 4.7 days (up from 4.1 days in 2019).

Outside Europe also notched up to 13.6 days, compared to 11.6 days in 2019. However, as expected, those one-day trips are being phased out. They accounted for 16.4 percent of business trips in 2019, and declined to 6.8 percent in 2022.

More trips also started on a weekend more often: 16.3 percent of airline tickets were for a Saturday or Sunday. In 2019, the proportion was 12.4 percent. The reason is most likely blended travel, but potentially efforts to make travel more sustainable, according to AirPlus.

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Tags: business travel, climate change, colombia, corporate travel, digital nomads, Future of Work Briefing, lufthansa, Mobile World Congress, ProColombia, remote workers, Skift Pro Columns, sustainable aviation fuel

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