I’d be very surprised if this is the first time you’re hearing about digital nomads. Just like hybrid working, staycations, and all things contact-free, it’s a term and concept that has blossomed as a direct result of the pandemic.
Digital nomads are a part of the rapidly changing work and travel landscape. For most of us, working meant being in an office. WFH (working from home) has been around for a while, but now we also have a brand-new initialism: WFA, which means working from anywhere. Exciting times.
So what does this mean for hospitality, and specifically for properties? If you get it right, it means increased occupancy, longer stays, and a more engaged community of guests. Let’s discuss these latest trends and explore how your business can prepare for digital nomads and the new breed of work-leisure travelers.
What are digital nomads?
Covid-19 was a watershed moment in the world of work. Many companies finally realized (albeit often reluctantly) that the default office working model of the last century is outdated and inefficient. Technology as reached the point where the majority of people in office jobs can work just as efficiently from anywhere, as long as they have a laptop and an internet connection. No more needless commuting, no more expensive building rentals.
Digital nomads, of course, have always known this. In fact, they’re probably feeling pretty smug right now. A digital nomad is essentially someone who works exclusively online and can therefore travel anywhere in the world while working. Typically, they stay in locations for longer periods of time to really experience local life; then, when they need a change of scenery, they can just pack up and move on to the next destination.
There isn’t one set way to be a digital nomad, and there are a few different approaches across the community. In fact, Mews has its own long-time digital nomad: our IT and Security Manager, Jan Taus. Check out his great piece on how to work remotely like a pro.
Blending and extending
Although digital nomads are becoming more common, there’s another growing guest group whose numbers are growing even faster: hybrid workers. This is a broad category of people who are combining work and holiday time. It could be someone who’s visiting another office or traveling for a business deal, and they extend their stay for a long weekend. Or it could be someone who wants to spend some time in another location for a couple of weeks, exploring the neighborhood in the evenings.
Millennials make up the biggest percentage of this demographic. They have an increased disposable income and a more flexible lifestyle than older generations, not to mention a real appetite for travel that’s only been amplified over the past 18 months.
This type of business has been snappily labelled blend and extend, and in all likelihood it’s a trend that’s here to stay. The good news is that this means a longer length of average stay. Moreover, these are guests who want to ‘live local’, which means plenty of opportunities for upselling unique experiences.
How to attract remote workers
So how do you get these magical guests through your door? There are a few must-haves for digital nomads and those looking for a workation, and they ultimately boil down to two things: technology and community.
Upgrade your Wi-Fi
Internet connection is probably the most important amenity for digital nomads. Without a reliable and free connection, they won’t be able to work, which means they simply won’t visit your property. It’s one of the 10 most avoidable hotel mistakes and there’s no excuse for it.
If you go the extra mile, you can even make your connectivity a selling point. When I went to Japan, the hotels I stayed at had a portable Wi-Fi device you could take with you during the day. For a regular tourist like me it was incredibly helpful for things like finding restaurants and getting around; for a digital nomad it gives them even more freedom to take their laptop to a café or a park and work from there.
Offer discounted long-stay rates
Digital nomads don’t just want to roll through town after town on a whirlwind tour. They want to properly experience the neighborhood. That means they’ll likely want to book for a long time, often dealing in months rather than nights.
Naturally, you should want to attract this kind of long-stay guest because not only is it guaranteed occupancy, but it also reduces your workload. Once they’ve settled they won’t need telling where the breakfast room is or what time they check out, and you won’t need to turnover that room so regularly. You should reflect this in your room rate, otherwise you risk losing out to someone like Airbnb who provide very competitive long-stay discounts.
Curate your upsells and add-ons
As we’ve already mentioned, authentic experiences are important to digital nomads – and Millennials in general. Help give them what they want, and everyone’s a winner. This could be simple extras like providing a rental bike – it’s a popular, environmentally friendly way to explore the area, and there are specialist integrations like MyHotelBike working in some cities to make things really easy for you.
Another good idea is to reach out to local businesses and establish partnerships with them. You can make commission by selling vineyard or brewery tours, or team up with local artists to share or sell their creations in your lobby.
Create a community
This leads us nicely into one of the most important areas to consider: creating a community. One of the biggest drawbacks to the nomadic lifestyle is that it can get lonely. Establishing an inclusive environment will go a long way to keeping remote workers happy, and this begins by ensuring there’s a communal space for people to work and interact, whether that’s a café, lobby breakout area or something else.
Arranging activities, either with local businesses or on your own account, has a big role to play here too. Think group yoga classes, cooking classes, and hikes. And of course, this isn’t limited to only your digital nomads: it will benefit all of your guests.
Embrace technology across the guest journey
Remote workers are used to the digital user journey. In fact, they prefer it. Set up options like online check-in and check-out with a virtual concierge, as well as automated payments for a more seamless experience. You’d be wise to set up alternative payment methods like Apple Pay and Google Pay, which are increasingly popular for this demographic.
Target the right marketing channels
Think about where this demographic spend most of their time. The answer: the internet. If you’re running campaigns, focus on social media channels and if you have the time, research relevant influencers.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is a little work on your SEO. Create a landing page dedicated to highlighting why your property is perfect for digital nomads, workations, and any other juicy keywords and you can capture all of that organic search traffic. Also, check if you’re in a country that provides a special remote working visa – if you are, all the more reason to create that landing page and start working on the above.
Finding your nomad niche
There isn’t just one type of digital nomad. Don’t assume that your property isn’t suited to hosting them just because you’re a certain style. Just as there are people on a tighter budget who prefer to stay at hostels, there are high-earning travelers who want to work in luxury – particularly if they can foot part of the bill to their employer.
Marriott offer a Work Anywhere Stay Pass to encourage people to leave their home office for a few days and stay at one of their hotels equipped with all the office functionality you need. They also offer a Work Anywhere Day Pass which gives you 6am to 6pm access to a room and their hotel facilities.
At the other end of the scale, hostels are a popular choice for digital nomads, in particular because of the ready-made community aspect. This list of the best hostels in Europe for digital nomads is a good resource for what they’re doing right, and a whopping 11 of the 19 hostels listed are with Mews. No big deal.
If this is the first time you’re thinking seriously about how to attract digital nomads and their like to your property, I hope this piece has helped you realize that doing so is relatively easy. It doesn’t have to involve wholesale changes across your property; it just involves a little time and consideration.
As long as you have the key ingredients of strong internet, a space to work, and a couple of community-led experiences, you’ll put yourself in a very good position.
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