COVID-19 had a devastating effect on the global travel industry, with many people forced to forego trips abroad and adhere to stay at home orders for months at a time. Travel enthusiasts and casual holidaymakers alike were left with a sense of wanderlust and longing for the days when they could pack their bags and head off on an adventure somewhere new. By March 2020, air passenger volume in the US was cut by more than 90% and by April of the same year, US hotel occupancy dropped to 25%.
Many expected that the travel industry would take years to recover, but recent trends suggest that people are keen to get back out there and explore the world again. And as we start to put the dark pandemic period behind us and the world starts reopening its doors to travelers once again, a new era of travel is emerging — relocation travel.
Last year, Airbnb released a Q4 shareholder letter highlighting some interesting trends in the way that people are traveling. The report showed that since the pandemic started, there has been a significant increase in demand for longer-term stays, with bookings for stays of 28 nights or more increasing by 16% since Q4 2019. In total, long stays accounted for 22% of all bookings in Q4 2021, and by Q1 2022, long term bookings were at an all-time high. This data indicates that travelers aren’t just visiting new locations — they’re settling in.
As a result of these findings, Airbnb has stated they are beginning to shift their focus toward the concept of “live anywhere” rather than “travel everywhere”. And it’s not just Airbnb that has recognized this new trend. Other travel companies are also starting to offer longer-term stays and anticipating a surge in demand for this type of travel in the coming months and years. A spokesperson from the Latin America Travel Association — a group of more than 360 companies — noted that they have witnessed the average booking go from 15-day trips up to 23 days. Complementary services like the ability to safely store luggage away during travel are also experiencing greater demand for lengthier periods, further reinforcing the transition to relocation travel
The Rise of The Digital Nomad
The term “digital nomad” dates back as far back as the 90s when authors Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners wrote a book titled “Digital Nomad”. The writers envisioned a world where people could return to their nomadic routes, empowered by developments in modern technology that would enable them to work remotely. Makimoto and Manners were astute in their prediction, which they conceived of long before technologies like high-speed broadband and video calling had become the norm. In the years since, the concept of the digital nomad entered the mainstream lexicon, with people all over the world ditching the traditional 9-5 in favor of a more nomadic lifestyle.
However, no one could have predicted the sudden and meteoric rise of this previously alternative lifestyle in the wake of the global pandemic. In 2020, MBO Partners conducted a research study which revealed that 10.9 million American workers described themselves as “digital nomads” — an increase of 49% from the previous year. While people who enjoy this lifestyle may differ slightly in the way they define it, there is one key commonality. They are not tied to one specific location and have the freedom to travel and work from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Some digital nomads choose to hop from country to country without ever putting down roots, while others may stay in one place for a few weeks or months, return to base and then set off again.
Here are some key facts and figures about digital nomads in the post-pandemic world:
- According to a survey by Flexjobs, 70% of digital nomads are female.
- While age can vary, the average digital nomad is 33 years old.
- ABrotherAbroad.com analyzed over 4,000 polls and surveys and concluded there are around 35 million digital nomads worldwide.
- 44% of American digital nomads earn more than $75,000 annually.
- The most common job role for a digital nomad is Software Development.
What’s Really Behind the Trend Of “Relocation Travel”?
Many factors beyond the greater flexibility and freedom that comes with being a digital nomad are fueling the rise of relocation travel. With more and more people unshackled from the requirement to attend work in person, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of people who are choosing to make the “workcation” a regular feature of their lives.
And it’s not hard to see why workcations are becoming the “new vacations”. Relocation travel allows people to take their work with them wherever they go and combine it with all the fun and adventure of exploring a new place. What’s not to love?
Here are some of the key factors influencing the rise of this new travel trend.
COVID-19 & The Shift to Remote Work
One of the most significant influencing factors on this current travel trend is undoubtedly the global shift to remote working that was precipitated by the pandemic. In the space of just a few months, entire workforces all over the world were forced to leave their traditional office set-ups and adapt to working from home. According to a study by Owl Labs, 16% of all companies globally were fully remote as of 2021.
While there were some teething problems at the beginning, for the most part, the transition went relatively smoothly. Many employers and employees alike were surprised at just how well the switch to remote working went. According to a survey by Buffer, an overwhelming 97% of workers responded that they would like to work remotely at least some of the time, for the rest of their careers.
It seems that the pandemic has forced employers to reassess their attitudes towards remote working and many are now more open to the idea of allowing their employees to work from anywhere in the world. This is good news for digital nomads and relocation travelers who are no longer restricted to living within commuting distance of their employers.
The Acceptance of the “Zoom Call”
In just the second quarter of 2020, the video conferencing app Zoom was downloaded over 300 million times. The pandemic had a huge impact on the way we communicate with each other, both professionally and personally. The rise of Zoom, Teams, and other video conferencing platforms has made it easier than ever to stay in touch with people all over the world.
And while Zoom calls might not offer the exact same benefits as face-to-face meetings, they have become an increasingly central part of doing business.
This shift towards video conferencing has made it easier for workers to stay in touch with their clients and colleagues, even when they are traveling. Now, you can easily attend important meetings and events, even if you’re halfway across the world. And while the technology may have been present for many years, its acceptance into the workplace has been a key enabler of relocation travel.
Advances In Collaborative Technology
In the past, one of the key barriers to working remotely was the lack of effective tools for collaboration and communication. However, this is no longer the case, thanks to platforms such as WebEx, MS Teams, Slack, and Asana. Team collaboration goes beyond a weekly Zoom call — these platforms provide a complete suite of tools that allow team members to stay in touch, share files, and work on projects together, no matter where they are in the world.
In fact, there are now collaborative tools specific to almost every industry, making it possible for workers in a wide range of fields to work together on projects both synchronously and asynchronously. GitHub and Jira have made it possible for software developers to work together on code, regardless of geography. And platforms like Canva and Adobe Creative Cloud have made it easy for designers, marketers, and other creatives to collaborate on projects.
What’s more, cloud computing and the rise of Software as a Service means most companies’ tech stacks are not tied to any one location. This gives employees the freedom to work from anywhere, without worrying about whether they’ll be able to access the tools and applications they need to use on a day-to-day basis. CRMs and ERPs can now be easily accessed from anywhere in the world, making it easy for sales teams and customer service reps to stay connected with their customers and team members outside the office.
The Cultural Shift Towards a Global Workforce
The pandemic has also accelerated a cultural shift that was already taking place within many companies — embracing a global workforce. Before the pandemic, it was already commonplace for companies to have employees working in different time zones and countries. “Remote-first” is now the new normal for many companies, with businesses increasingly realizing the benefits of being able to hire a workforce that is not tied to any one location.
By the end of 2021, there were 11.3 million job openings in the US but only 6.3 million unemployed workers. The UK is experiencing a similar trend, with a record-breaking 1.2 million job vacancies around the same period, and more than half of employers reporting that they were struggling to fill positions. Amid a global labor shortage, a shift to off-shore remote sourcing is likely to continue, as companies look for ways to access a wider pool of talent. With high-speed Internet access becoming increasingly ubiquitous across the globe, it’s easier than ever for employers to hire talent from anywhere in the world. For many companies, the decision to move to a remote-first model is motivated by the cost savings that can be achieved by reducing physical overheads and hiring workers from more affordable labor markets.
But the pandemic has led to a change in the way many workers view their careers. COVID-19 forced many people to reassess their priorities and place a greater value on their time outside work. For certain people, this reprioritization of their work-life balance led to a desire for more flexibility and freedom in their careers. “Less time working and more time living” has become the motto of many employees, which in turn has driven the growth of the relocation travel market.
People Are Making Up for Lost Time
The pandemic has also had a profound impact on people’s travel habits. With international travel all but impossible for much of 2020, many people were devasted that they had to cancel their travel plans for the coming year. However, now that vaccines have been rolled out and travel restrictions have eased, people are making up for lost time.
There is a significant pent-up demand for travel, which is likely to be unleashed in the coming months and years. Rather than taking a traditional two-week vacation, people are now choosing to take extended trips of 30 days or more. This trend is being driven by a desire to make up for lost time and take advantage of the newfound flexibility that many people have in their careers. Travel is becoming more purposeful — people are using their holidays to tick items off their bucket lists, learn new skills, and see the world in a way that they never have before. This is a welcome trend for the travel industry, which was hard hit by the pandemic. Hotels, airlines, and tour operators are all eagerly anticipating the return of tourists and the longer-term bookings that the relocation travel trend is bringing.
The Benefits of Relocation Traveling
Relocation travel is the perfect way to slow down and truly experience a destination. With no time limit, you can explore everything that a place has to offer, without feeling rushed. This type of travel is also much more immersive — you have the opportunity to live like a local, rather than being a tourist who only sees the surface of a destination. Here are some of the other benefits of relocation travel.
You can settle into your new home and really get to know the area
Short holiday breaks as a tourist don’t usually allow you to really get to know an area. If you visit Paris for a few days, you’re probably going to skim all the touristic highlights — the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral. But if you live in Paris for a month, you’re going to start exploring the more hidden corners of the city and getting to know the people who live there. You’ll discover the best bakeries, coffee shops, and hidden parks in the additional time.
You can learn a new language
Learning a new language is a great way to immerse yourself in the culture of your destination and it can literally change how your brain views the world. If you’re planning on living in a foreign country for a month or more, why not sign up for some language classes? It’s a great way to meet people and make friends. Or use a language app to brush up on the basics and then practice conversing in the native tongue when you’re out and about. The best way to learn a language is to live in a country where it’s spoken, and relocation travel is the perfect opportunity to do just that.
You can get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life
It can be easy to fall into a monotonous routine, and many people feel like they need a break from the grind of everyday life. If you’re feeling burnt out or unfulfilled by your current situation, a change of scenery might be just what you need. Relocation travel allows you to take a needed break to experience something new and exciting. This can be a great way to recharge your batteries and come back to your normal life feeling refreshed and invigorated.
You can make new friends and connections
When you travel to a new place, you can meet new people and make friends from all over the world. With relocation travel, you can take this a step further and really get to know the people you meet. It’s even possible to meet lifelong friends. Joining a meetup group, for example, is one of many ways to make new friends and find out about all the best places to go and things to do.
It’s a way to connect with different cultures
If you’re interested in different cultures, relocation travel could be just what you need. When you’re living in a foreign country, you can learn about the culture and way of life firsthand. It’s a great way to broaden your horizons and develop a greater understanding of the world we live in. By expanding your cultural knowledge, you can develop a greater insight into the complexities of the world, which also increases appreciation for your own customs and traditions.
You can find new and interesting places to live
Looking for a change of scenery? You can use relocation travel to find somewhere new and interesting to live. There are so many different places in the world to explore, and you may just find your perfect new home during one of your prolonged excursions. Relocation travel gives you more time to discover an idyllic place to make your permanent residence if you’re looking to move on from your current location.
How To Choose Your Next Workcation Destination
Maybe you just want to drop a pin on a map and see where the wind takes you. But if you’re planning on working during your trip, you’ll have a few extra considerations that wouldn’t be as important on a normal vacation. In such a case, ask yourself a few important questions like the ones below.
Is there a good Internet connection?
If you’re working remotely, ensure you have reliable Internet. A spotty connection makes any type of productive work a real challenge, so be sure to do your research before booking your trip.
What’s the cost of living like?
Consider the cost of living in your destination before going away for your workcation. Your budget should factor in things like the cost of accommodation, food, luggage storage, and transportation to ensure you can get the most out of your stay.
What’s the climate like?
You might be craving sometime in the sun, but if you’re not used to it, a hotter destination may not be as conducive to your productivity. As such, it’s something to consider before finalizing your booking.
What’s the time difference?
While this might not be a concern if your work allows you to work asynchronously, it can become a problem if you’re required to sit in on meetings. A big-time difference makes it difficult to stay in touch with your co-workers and clients, so it’s something to think about ahead of traveling.
Will This Trend Last?
The era of relocation travel has been a long time coming. If futurists were predicting a return to a more nomadic lifestyle facilitated by technological advances as far back as the 90s, it’s safe to say the writing has been on the wall for some time. However, while people did live nomadically for much of human history, this lifestyle existed in groups of families and tribes. In contrast, the current iteration of relocation travel is being undertaken mostly by individuals or couples.
In an increasingly isolated world, will people continue to venture out on their own in search of new experiences? Or will they seek the comfort of familiar surroundings and the company of a community? Only time will tell. But if the last few years are anything to go by, this trend is only just starting to pick up steam.