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The digital nomad opportunity: Helping travel and aviation brands tap into a lucrative market

Travel - 17th May 2023
The digital nomad opportunity: Helping travel and aviation brands tap into a lucrative market

As a concept, digital nomads are nothing new. People working and migrating across borders, moving between time zones, juggling work and leisure.

But until recently, this lifestyle was restricted to certain roles and skillsets. Authors, journalists, even the odd graphic designer perhaps. And you typically had to operate as a freelancer to make it work.

However, following the great digital transformation acceleration of the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional working parameters have been completely tipped on their head.

Almost overnight, both companies and employees realised that, with a few tweaks to process and technology, a whole host of roles could be moved exclusively remote and online.

This sparked a great wave as people either quit their jobs, went freelance, or looked for new roles offering exclusive remote working options, with little to no restriction on where or when you work.

Digital nomads: Charting the rise of a location-independent, technology-enabled lifestyle

Following this surge, many questioned whether digital nomadism was purely a post-pandemic trend. The numbers provide a compelling argument to the contrary.

There are an estimated 35 million digital nomads spread across the world, with over a quarter (27%) of those based in Europe.

For travel, air, and tourism brands, digital nomads have rapidly evolved into a tangible and viable target audience. They have specific needs, preferences, and requirements that are different to that of the average tourist or long-term traveller.

They also wield significant spending power. Research shows over a third of digital nomads boast annual salaries in excess of $100K USD. Contributing an impressive $787 USD billion in global economic value per year.

In response, many countries have stepped up efforts to entice this high-value audience by rolling out working visas specifically targeting digital nomads. At the time of writing, 46 countries offer separate visas for digital nomads (with almost half of these being in Europe), and this number is increasing seemingly very month.

From their perspective, it’s a win-win situation. Attract a new economy booster to your country, who will stay longer and spend more than the average tourist, and is unlikely to infringe on job opportunities for local residents (many digital nomad visas state the applicant must be employed outside of the country they’re visiting).

This is a ripe and nascent target audience, giving early movers a unique chance to exploit a significant gap in the market. But how?

In pursuit of better work-life balance: How can travel brands tap into digital nomadism?

Despite popular belief, digital nomads aren’t constantly on the move. In fact, only 17% spend less than a week in one place, with a third staying between 1-4 weeks, and 23% extending their stay beyond four weeks, sometimes even exceeding three months.

This all means the right accommodation is one of the biggest factors when a digital nomad is choosing where to splash their cash.

The majority of travel and airline companies already possess numerous partnerships with local hotels, hostels, or other travel accommodation – working together to craft bespoke packages for families, business travellers, or retirees.

So, what’s stopping brands from applying the same approach to digital nomads? According to research, the biggest issues facing digital nomads while traveling include poor internet/Wi-Fi connection, personal safety concerns, and difficulty working with colleagues/clients in different time zones.

Travel and aviation brands can work with hotels and private accommodation to ensure they possess the facilities that address these challenges.

Guaranteed powerful Wi-Fi, dedicated coworking spaces and meeting rooms (not just an extra desk in their room), instant access to consular support, specific security spaces where people can leave expensive equipment while they go out and explore – all are critical when digital nomads are looking for somewhere to stay.

Culture, community, and connection: Achieving competitive differentiation

The whole point of digital nomadism is not just to work, but also to explore. Nomads want excitement and fulfilment outside of their job, to feel connected to the places in which they’re staying.

The right partnerships can help tick these boxes. Work with other companies to offer excursions and experiences that help digital nomads absorb local cultures and contribute to local communities.

Nomads also crave freedom and autonomy. To satisfy this, airline brands can offer flexible flight options that allow people to hop between countries. Nomads are more than willing to splash some extra cash if it affords them more freedom of choice and movement.

Another potential strategy is going the B2B route by directly contacting the forward-looking businesses currently offering ‘digital nomadism’ as an employee perk/benefit.

Indeed, many companies are embracing the digital nomadism wave by allowing their employees to live and work in another country for a set amount of time per year, or even full time. Just look at Spotify’s Work From Anywhere programme.

The assumption that all digital nomads are self-employed is false. True, the largest slice of the digital nomad market is freelance, but a surprisingly high percentage (35%) are employed by a company.

By approaching these companies directly, airlines and travel providers can strike exclusive deals, ensuring they become their sole airline or travel provider of choice.

Digital nomads: A burgeoning market yet to be defined

The rise of digital nomadism is showing no signs of slowing. As technology sophistication increases, and our focus on better work-life balance continues to grow, more businesses and people will explore this next evolution of the remote work lifestyle.

Most excitingly, this target audience is in its relative infancy. Now is the perfect time for travel and tourism brands to get in on the action, help define what this niche looks like, and grab a significant slice of the market share.

Get in touch to find out how 8020 can help you tap into this market.


Laura Davies