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Digital nomads are a great new market

Cape Town gets ahead of the game

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Digital nomads are a great new market

Cape Town gets ahead of the game

, |

4 min read

Until recently, most new developments had a tourism component, but some developers started rethinking that since Covid hit our shores. But perhaps it’s more a matter of tweaking your offerings to appeal to a new type of ‘tourist’ – the digital nomad.

Cape Town steps up to the plate

The City of Cape Town hosted its first Remote Work Webinar in partnership with Cape Town Tourism (CTT) and the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (Fedhasa) on Thursday, 4 June 2021, and brought together stakeholders from key tourism and hospitality organisations who shared insights on how and why to appeal to digital nomads.

The concept of these professionals on the move has been around for years, but became more of a norm when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the vast majority of office-bound workers to move their workspaces to their homes.

Now, around 74% of professionals say that they believe it will become the new normal, while 97% of employees and entrepreneurs say they want flexibility in terms of where they do their jobs, according to a survey by remote placement portal, Growmotely.

‘We are constantly looking at changes in the industry and what it will look like in the future. This means that it will be an increasingly competitive space in terms of attracting visitors.

‘The rise of the digital nomad means that tourism players in both government and the private sector have to shift their approach so as to be more marketable to those who are blending aspects of work and vacations into a “Workcation”.

‘By encouraging more digital nomads to choose South Africa and Cape Town, we will be boosting the economy, as they will spend more time and money here. They will also amplify the message among their friends, family and networks about our city being a prime destination for work and play. The nomadic worker model has become so popular that the City is leading the call for a remote worker visa.

‘Digital nomads typically stay longer than 90 days in a destination. As such, I will be making submissions to national government to make provisions in the Immigration Act to allow for a Remote Working Visa for a period longer than three months,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Opportunities and Asset Management, Alderman James Vos.

What participants have to say

  • Lisa-Ann Hosking, Tourism Services Manager at Cape Town Tourism, said that they had learned of interesting collaborations and partnerships in response to the trend. She cited the eastern European country of Estonia – currently ranked as the top spot globally for remote working – as an example of how to appeal to digital nomads. ‘They implemented a 12-month remote work visa. They’ve got free internet, and their digital economy has actually boomed. Their cost of living is very affordable. Cape Town can certainly up its ranking (from 42 on the list of 50 Best Places for Remote Working in 2021).’ While CTT still has lessons to learn about the remote working trend, Hosking said that they are experts in connecting people to each other.
  • Andrae Smith, the founder of Work Wanderers, said that this was the most important aspect of the nomadic worker lifestyle. Work Wanderers coaches people in following the digital nomad lifestyle. ‘Community is very important to digital nomads, so things like co-working and co-living spaces are a very good idea.’ Catering to the specific needs of these remote workers can be a boon for the economy, as each one tends to spend up to R50,000 during their stay, Smith added.
  • Jeremy Clayton, executive director of the President Hotel in Sea Point, and chairperson of Fedhasa, said that, during the lockdown, the hotel opened its doors to the surrounding community looking for a relaxing setting for work outside of their homes. The hotel adjusted its offering to allow workers to book a meeting room for a day (or more), after which it would be deep-cleaned. ‘The rise of the digital nomad and Work From Hotel trend is here to stay, and Cape Town and South African hotels are perfectly located to provide an exceptional experience to these communities. There are few better places in the world for work-life blend than right here,’ said Clayton.
  • Angelika Yakovchuk – Partner and Head of Immigration Department at WerthSchröder Attorneys, Director at French Chamber, and Lead on Immigration Policy Development at EU Chamber – has been engaging with European Union chambers and South Africa’s Department of Trade, Industry and Competition on the remote work visa, and said that the topic is gaining momentum. ‘In essence, activities intended by a remote worker are limited to activities by a tourist visiting South Africa, albeit their duration of stay could exceed 90 days. Therefore, applying a provision to the Immigration Act and regulations that already govern visitors’ visas applications for extended stay, i.e. in excess of 90 days, and recognising remote work as a permitted activity can be swiftly implemented. It affords South Africa a competitive tourist edge, while regulating the admission of foreigners for a specific purpose. The local employment market will not be affected,’ said Yakovchuk.

Going forward

‘The City’s Enterprise and Investment Department and I developed the 10-Point Tourism Strategy to diversify and evolve our approach in attracting more visitors. And we can see that it’s working, as domestic flights to Cape Town International Airport have been booming, while local establishments such as guesthouses, restaurants and other providers have seen a resultant uptick in business.

‘Being a prime destination for “Workcations” has been our best-kept secret for many years and a useful ace to pull out at this particular time. These are exciting times. Let’s see how we can unlock opportunities for all,’ said Alderman Vos.

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