Navigating the surge of digital nomadism

Digital nomads are location-independent professionals who leverage technology to perform their jobs remotely while travelling the globe. What was once a niche lifestyle has now transformed into a formidable movement, with estimates suggesting that the digital nomad population increased by 131 percent between 2019 and 2022.

Today, 16 percent of companies globally permit their employees to work entirely remotely, a testament to the profound impact of this paradigm shift. Consequently, it is estimated that at least 40 million individuals across the world now identify as digital nomads, a figure that is poised to soar in the coming years.

The causes of the rising number of digital nomads

This global phenomenon has been fueled by several factors. One of the primary causes is the increasing flexibility of work arrangements. With the advent of technology and the internet, more companies are allowing employees to work remotely, giving birth to a new breed of workers who can perform their duties from anywhere in the world.

According to Crossover 70 percent of professionals work remotely at least 5 days a month by 2025. This trend is not only limited to the corporate world. Freelancers and entrepreneurs are also joining the digital nomad lifestyle, driven by the allure of freedom and the ability to choose their own work environment.

Another significant factor contributing to the rise of digital nomads is the desire for a better work-life balance. The traditional 9 to 5 job often comes with a long commute and rigid schedule, leaving little time for personal pursuits or relaxation. On the other hand, digital nomads have the liberty to set their own hours and work from locations that inspire them, leading to increased productivity and satisfaction.

Additionally, the cost of living in many cities around the world is skyrocketing. This has led some individuals to adopt the digital nomad lifestyle as a way to escape high living costs. Countries like Thailand, Bali, and Mexico have become popular destinations for digital nomads due to their affordable cost of living and high-speed internet.

The rise in the number of digital nomads can also be attributed to the growing desire for experiences over possessions. More people are choosing to invest in experiences, such as travel and cultural immersion, rather than material goods. The digital nomad lifestyle offers an opportunity to fulfil this desire while still maintaining a steady income.

Navigating visa requirements

While digital nomads are known for their penchant for country-hopping, a significant portion (approximately 66 percent) prefer to establish temporary residency in a single location for a few months at a time. This often necessitates obtaining a visa, a process that can be fraught with bureaucratic hurdles and complexities.

Securing a traditional work visa can be particularly challenging for digital nomads, as many countries require local company sponsorship, proof of running a regular business, work permits, or other documentation. Consequently, digital nomads have been known to resort to tourist visas or visa-free travel schemes to circumvent these lengthy and costly requirements.

While the risk of legal repercussions in foreign countries may be low, travel management companies (TMCs) and travel agents have a duty of care to guide businesses or remote workers towards appropriate visa options. Fortunately, over 66 countries now offer dedicated digital nomad visas, providing a legitimate pathway for this demographic.

Countries leading the way in digital nomad visas

Several countries have emerged as pioneers in catering to the digital nomad community through specialised visa programs:

  • South Korea recently launched a Visa for digital nomads, albeit with a steep minimum annual income requirement of KRW 85 million (USD 63,400).
  • Japan is poised to introduce a similar visa this year, also mandating a high minimum annual income of JPY 10 million (USD 65,900).
  • In contrast, Malaysia and Spain offer digital nomad visas with more lenient income thresholds. Malaysia's DE Rantau Nomad Pass requires a minimum yearly income of USD 24,000, while Spain's Digital Nomad Visa sets the bar at EUR 25,700 (USD 27,800). These more accessible requirements have contributed to the popularity of these destinations among digital nomads.

As the global trend towards visa openness continues to gain momentum, an increasing number of countries are easing or eliminating visa requirements altogether.

How do businesses feel about remote work and digital nomads?

​​In the ever-evolving business landscape, the shift towards remote work has been a defining trend. The perspective on this transformation has seen a significant evolution. In the past, businesses were hesitant, viewing remote work as a risk to productivity and team cohesion. However, the narrative has changed significantly by 2024. Companies are now recognizing the benefits of remote work, such as increased flexibility, reduced overhead costs, and access to a wider talent pool.

According to a recent report, the number of workers choosing to work remotely has increased by 24 percent. Moreover, a survey by Apollo Technical which included 800,000 employees revealed that people that switched to remote working maintained or increased their productivity. Despite these promising statistics, the transition hasn't been smooth for all sectors. Challenges persist, particularly in industries where face-to-face interactions remain crucial. While the sentiment towards remote work is generally positive, it is clear that businesses are still navigating this new terrain, striving to strike the right balance between flexibility and productivity.

Image Credit: Romablack /

Suzanne Sangiovese has over a decade of experience in the travel industry. In her role as Director of Travel and Technology at Riskline she oversees developing and implementing strategies that promote Riskline’s growth in the travel sector, as well as fostering the new vision for the company’s technical products. Suzanne serves on the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Europe’s Risk Committee and is a member of the Women in APIs community. She holds an MSc in International Security and Global Governance from Birkbeck, University of London.

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