lyf Collingwood's co-working spaces appeal to digital nomads

As international travel booms once again, global markets competing for tourism dollars are looking to digital nomad visas to capitalise on the growing ‘work from anywhere’ trend.

Last month, the Indonesian Government announced the proposed introduction of an long-term working visa to bring digital nomads to its shores. The visa would allow travellers to live and work in sought-after destinations like Bali for five years without having to pay taxes if working for an overseas employer.

“Now with the pandemic handled and all the ministries getting involved and cooperating from the health side to the immigrations office, we believe that this is an opportune time to relaunch this idea,” said Indonesia’s Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy, Sandiaga Uno.

It’s a concept that is being considered by many countries around the world as major corporations like Airbnb permit staff to work remotely from any location. And it’s one that could help Australia drive the return of international travellers, which have been slow to return since the reopening of borders.

Selina’s Destination Director for Australia and New Zealand, Dean Leibowitz, believes a visa like this could draw a lot of working visitors Down Under.

“From my experiences living overseas and talking to people from all over the world, Australia is always high up on people’s bucket list to travel to, but the most common reasons for not coming (apart from the snakes and spiders) are that Australia is too far away, too expensive and in some cases the visa application is too complicated,” Leibowitz told HM.

“If we could extend the time travellers can spend down here and provide them with the ability to continue to work and get paid while they are here, I have no doubt we would see a huge influx of people coming to spend six months to a year in Australia.”

One of Australia’s biggest traveller markets is the working holiday maker, and while numbers are still falling short of pre-pandemic figures, the demand for this visa signals a desire from international travellers to come to Australia for extended periods of time.

Leibowitz says there’s growing evidence to prove that digital nomad visas work.

“There is a direct correlation between the countries offering digital nomad style visas and where these nomad hubs are forming – from Portugal and Germany to Eastern European countries like Croatia and Hungary, and across Latin America in Costa Rica, Colombia, Mexico, Panama and Brazil,” he said.

“These countries are all forming bustling international nomad commutes in their city hubs and remote towns.”

While many of these are developing countries, where the cost of living is lower, the influx of global travellers who are earning an income drives growth in these markets.

“The hospitality and lifestyle industries are always booming in these areas and that in turn drives more global tourism demand,” he said.

“Just look at what is happening in Lisbon, Budapest, Mexico City and Colombia.”

In recent months, Australia has witnessed a rise in next-generation accommodation targeting the digital nomad with the introduction of co-living brands, Selina and lyf.

Since launching in May, Panama-born hospitality brand Selina has opened two properties in Melbourne and one in Brisbane.

Its ‘stay, work and play’ concept targets Millennial and Gen Z travellers, and in the first quarter of 2022 the company recorded total revenue of SU$39.9 million, a 150.8% increase on the same period the year prior.  

“These generations are far more lifestyle-driven,” Leibowitz said.  

“They prioritise meaningful moments, experiences, and adventure over material possessions. Given the choice to live freely, move from one cultural hub to another while working in your own time and on your own terms, verses commuting into a stale office day in day out, I have no doubt which would be the favoured option amongst these generations.”

It’s a choice Leibowitz has made several times in his own career, and he expects this trend will only continue to grow.  

“Why not start the day off on a beach in Panama, get a surf and yoga in before retreating to a beachside office for the day, then mingling with like-minded adventurous spirits by night?”