by Tina Chu
SIXTEEN per cent of digital nomads today own crypto assets. Can the travel industry offer digital nomads an alternative crypto payment option as they further integrate crypto into their lives?
According to the 2021 research study by MBO Partners, 15.5 million American workers described themselves as digital nomads, a drastic 112% increase from 2019. This is set to grow over the course of this decade as remote work becomes the norm.
The term “digital nomads” became widely popular over the last century and spiked in the last two years due to the outbreak of COVID-19 where millions of travelers were stuck abroad and couldn’t return home, searching for ways to work remotely and pay for their living.
In addition, millions of workers globally were no longer required to work from their offices as they shifted from working from the office to home.
Erroneously, many today connect the trend of digital nomads to the spread of pandemic, but digital nomad-ism started way before the pandemic and is more than anything connected to the wider availability of free Wi-Fi spots worldwide, enabling people to connect to fast Internet and work for free from hotels, libraries and from anywhere else their heart desires.
Looking back, the concept of digital nomads was well defined already in 1997 with the release of the book “Digital Nomad” by Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners where the authors described how technology allowed for a return of societies to a nomadic lifestyle. They defined digital nomads as people who conduct their lives in a nomadic manner while engaging in remote work using digital telecommunications technology.
Clearly, today we live in a virtual world where physical state borders become less and less apparent, and the world’s most popular projects like NFTs, the Web 3.0 and the metaverse, are leading us to the next level of virtual society.
Countries’ main function today is being visibly reduced to providing the best services they can for their citizens to keep them within their physical borders and attract more digital nomads. This is all done with the aim to sell their services to them and collect taxes as digital nomads continue to seek the best places to live that compliments their lifestyle.
Practically everything nowadays can be arranged over the Internet – education, work, shopping, streaming concerts, paying for your parking tickets, and just about everything can be paid directly from your mobile phone or online bank account. The only ‘border’ we have today is defined by governments.
As we choose our state today based on access to stable and fast Internet, state regulation and high-quality services, the combination of these would make these states the most attractive locations for digital nomads. Let’s have a closer look at some of the key factors.
- Free WiFi and 5G
WiFi Map became popular during the initial outbreak of the pandemic due to people’s need for free Internet. The free app lets you locate free, secure, and fast WiFi hotspots nearby and if necessary it can help you access a secure VPN or eSIM (the latter are paid features).
Here is an example for Singapore https://www.wifimap.io/7182-singapore-free-wifi/map Some countries are better than others when it comes to WiFi availability. WiFi research shows that the top cities with the most available free WiFi hotspots are Singapore, Seoul, Moscow, New York, London, and Tokyo.
The app also features passwords for Wi-Fi hotspots that are protected by a login password, which are also updated by users on a crowdsourced basis.
Businesses are also listing their hotspots in the app to attract customers to their safe and traveler-friendly venues, in what is a win-win situation for users and businesses alike.
With remote working now mainstream, hotels are increasingly offering empty rooms as individual office space for the day. As brands and hotels are adapting to new ways of working in a COVID-19 world by reimagining their spaces, it is expected that they provide visitors with a fast, reliable and secure Internet connection.
Among the most common complaints of hotel guests is poorly functioning internet connection. More than 336.9 million hotspot connection logs have been collected and analyzed, adding to the database’s robustness, which has also enabled WiFi Map to compile data on the 10 most Wi-Fi friendly hotel chains in the U.S. including the Hilton, Hyatt and Omni.
- Make visas easy
As people become more mobile, they make choices on where to live – whether it’s a warm climate, low taxes, good education, or quality healthcare. But one criteria remains solidly important – easy to get visas. This is true especially for millennials and the up-in-coming Generation Z.
The most attractive cities for digital nomads are those in which special visas are approved easily and quickly, such as in Melbourne, Dubai, Sydney, Tallinn, Puerto Rico, and San José (Costa Rica), and in many Greek cities.
Are digital nomads travelers? Absolutely. They travel in many different ways using Apple Pay and even crypto, paying for everything from hotels to beers at the pub. They spend whenever they go – making them very attractive for retail and hospitality industries.
- Time zones closest to physical workplace
One of the biggest difficulties for digital nomads traveling around the globe is dealing with different time zones. They want to be able to take calls easily when their coworkers need them, so they naturally select countries that are within the same timezone of their office.
That’s why many of them still prefer the closest locations to their physical work place, so many U.S. citizens still prefer Mexico, Australia for Singaporeans, Baltic states for Russians and Belorussians, and so on.
But even this is beginning to change. Many blockchain and cryptocurrency companies are completely remote, with workers in all different time zones, and they are still able to make it work and get things done in a fast and professional manner. Traditional banks, asset management companies and even insurance firms are also now becoming a lot more open to having their staff work remotely.
- Fair regulatory frameworks for crypto assets
Digital nomads choose the best traveling services – mobile, fast, affordable and the ones that offer more payment options.
Naturally, this leads to a regulatory framework for crypto assets because one sixth of digital nomads own crypto assets.
For example, a regulatory framework for licensing digital wallet companies and crypto-assets exchange was recently introduced in Greece, highlighting Greece’s endorsement of cryptocurrencies and digital technologies. That regulation makes the region not only attractive to fintech companies but also to digital nomads in possession of cryptocurrencies.
Digital nomads are bitcoiners. They use stable coins to pay for their products and services, and they use stable coins to invest in CeFi and DeFi markets. They also use cryptocurrency savings accounts where they can earn up to 12% a year from their cryptocurrencies.
Digital nomads don’t want to be tied down to one bank that offers almost nothing of their cash in their savings accounts, so they are moving to crypto where they can earn high yield passive income easily and securely.
Nearly 35 million people worldwide consider themselves digital nomads and around 16% of them possess crypto assets.
Long before the term ‘digital nomads’ was coined, travelers would be closely connected to technology because they were early adopters – the first to use faster transport and other innovations to take them to their destinations.
But today most travel apps still resist the adoption of crypto payment systems. Let’s examine the crypto travel industry and predict what will happen in the near future to travel services that embrace cryptocurrencies and those that resist the fast growing industry.
While states decide on crypto regulation frameworks, travel brands can also participate and decide whether they accept crypto as an alternative payment method or not. Some companies have already taken the first steps towards crypto payments.
Travel services as crypto pioneers
Expedia, one of the leaders in the online booking industry, became a pioneer in accepting cryptocurrencies as a means of payment in 2014. It stopped supporting that option on June 10, 2018, apologizing to its customers for the “inconvenience” but they didn’t name the exact reasons for that decision.
In 2014, another travel brand, the Latvian airline airBaltic became the world’s first airline to accept Bitcoin, but the practice was abandoned shortly after. However, there are successful examples, like the online travel agency CheapAir.com, that in 2019 introduced to its customers the crypto payment option and has steadily been expanding its crypto options ever since.
Will the travel industry embrace crypto?
This year, Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, the popular accommodation-booking platform, surveyed his company’s 403,000 Twitter followers asking them what the company should launch in 2022.
It turned out that the top feature users wanted was to be able to pay for bookings in cryptocurrencies. According to a Forbes article that mentions the latest survey by Airbnb, travel brands should accept crypto to provide travelers with alternative payment methods.
Some travel brands, like the global travel company Travala, were accepting bitcoin payments in the past, but introduced an easier, faster and cheaper payment method through their partnership with the Lightning Network using OpenNode this year.
Travala’s CEO Juan Otero commented that the move is a “significant and much-needed step” toward increased crypto adoption around the world.
“At Travala.com, we’re constantly exploring ways to further bridge the gap between blockchain and travel, so working with OpenNode to enable bitcoin payments on the Lightning Network was a natural fit for us to continue innovating toward the future of travel,” Otero said.
35 million digital nomads across the globe translate into an economic value of estimated $787 billion per year, and that’s just how much digital nomads spend annually.
While some travel brands are considering whether to integrate crypto payments into their platforms, these 12 travel brands are ahead of time and already offering their customers crypto payment options, making impressive profits while supporting digital nomads of today.
As digital nomads further embrace crypocurriences in their lives, travel brands should do the same.
About Tina Chu
Tina Chu is an award-winning marketing and growth leader with a customer-first mindset backed by leadership experience in top tech companies including Tencent, Expedia and Nokia, and Klook.
She has led global teams to drive user growth for major products at both Tencent JOOX (SEA #1 Music Streaming app) and Klook App (Asia’s largest online travel agency).