Digital Nomads and STRs: Market Growth Since COVID-19 and How to Capitalize On It

digital nomad str

By The Hospitable Team

“We travel where the wind blows us. If we find fantastic accommodation that grips us, or the city is amazing, we might extend it. We’ll find a new cafe to work in every day, and fall in love with the place.”

So says Josh Strawczynski, an entrepreneur and regular digital nomad, who has been working remotely for around seven years and travels with his partner.

He’s not alone in looking for “fantastic accommodation.” Digital nomads are now big business if you run short-term rentals (STRs). Over repeated Covid-19 quarantine and lockdowns, millions realized that if they could work from home, they could work from anywhere. 

And with travel now restarted, they’ve swapped commutes and offices for plane rides and vacation rentals. 

The stats prove it. A report by Statista* showed that there were 16.9 million digital nomads in the US as of July 2022, compared to 7.3 million in 2019.

But nomads are not just holidaymakers with a laptop. They’re looking for stays with particular amenities and facilities, and it’s crucial that hosts understand their specific needs.

To help, we’ve spoken to three experienced nomads for their expert insights. As well as Josh Strawczynski, we also asked:

  • Martina Russo, CEO of Moving Words, who has been traveling for around 13 years, and now works fully remotely while traveling in her van with her five pets
  • Gabi Sayer, a digital nomad who now studies and works while traveling full-time, along with his partner

With their help, we explore:

  • Exactly how the digital nomad market has grown since the pandemic
  • The benefits of focusing on digital nomads
  • Who digital nomads are, and what they want in a rental
  • How hosts can capture more digital nomads as reliable guests

Got your passport? Great. Let’s do this.

*Statista, Jul 2022 online poll of 6,488 representative respondents 18+, published Sept 2022.

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The post-pandemic digital nomad: Changing attitudes towards workplace flexibility

The pandemic has accelerated what was already a fast-growing market pre-Covid. 

Witness Google search volume results. While already at a considerable 1,300,000 in January 2019, results for the term had soared to 56,700,000 by January 2022 as travel restrictions began to ease.

Before the pandemic, only about 7% of U.S. workers worked full-time at home. Yet, according to a Stanford University study conducted this summer, the number is now approaching half of all workers.

And a 2020 report by independent workplace specialists MBO Partners has also found that the number of remote workers is booming. It says: “In 2020, the U.S. and the entire world witnessed a seismic shift toward remote work, accelerated in large part due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This shift has…further boosted the population of American digital nomads.

“In July 2020, 42% of American workers reported working from home full-time. The population of digital nomads in the U.S. also rose dramatically—with an increase of nearly 50% from 2019.”

Similarly, the “Great Resignation” trend showed that worker expectations have significantly shifted over the past two years.

A report by professional services network Grant Thornton showed that as many as 46% of Americans would look for another job if their employer forced them to return to the office full-time; while research by job search site Zippia found that 45% of US workers left roles in 2021 due to a lack of flexibility.

This means that investing in making your rentals nomad-friendly is still a business-savvy move—particularly in the US. That’s because, far from being “over” already, the digital nomad trend is still rising.

The MBO partners report stated that the “pandemic-induced shift to remote work has taught businesses of all sizes that remote work works,” and added that “millions” are set to join the trend “in the coming years.”

It found that 19 million people want to become digital nomads within the next two to three years (18% more than in 2019), while 64 million said they “maybe” would (up 10% from 2019).

And governments are starting to notice, too. Countries including Aruba, Barbados, Cape Verde, Croatia, Estonia, Indonesia, Malta, and Norway have all recently introduced visas enabling nomads to live and work legally for up to two years.

digital nomads graphic
*Sources: MBO Partners / Grant Thornton / Zippia

In fact, as well as being a solid industry to invest in, digital nomads also bring a range of great advantages compared to other kinds of vacation rental guests. Let’s take a look.

What are the benefits of focusing on digital nomads?

Digital nomads have specific needs and desires when it comes to staying in vacation rentals, and these can offer fantastic benefits to hosts.

Extended stays

Hospitable bookings calendar
Digital nomads can help fill your calendar and maximize occupancy rates

Digital nomads aren’t staying for a few days. They’re generally here for the long haul. 

Martina Russo says: “I just want to enjoy my time. Slow travel means that I don’t just hop on a plane and go somewhere. Sometimes, if I’m traveling with my van and my five pets, it takes me weeks to get there, and then when I get to one place, I’ll be there for months.”

“Some digital nomads travel for years, regularly moving across countries and continents,” says the MBO Partners report. “Others are nomadic for shorter periods, taking ‘workcations’ and working sabbaticals lasting from several weeks to many months.”

In summer 2022, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky also said that “people are taking longer trips,” and released its new tool, Split Stays, to help users arrange longer bookings. In August 2022, the company even stated that stays of 28 days or more was its fastest-growing category by trip length.

A FlexJobs survey supports this. It found that the majority of working travelers typically spend one to three months or even three to six months in each destination country, and only a small percentage (9%) visit more than 10 countries in a year.

It also found: 

  • 73% visit one or two countries per year
  • 19% visit between three and four
  • Just 8% visit more than five countries in a 12-month period.

Happily, long-term stays offer hosts:

  • More revenue stability
  • More money with less work (because you’ll have fewer changeovers to coordinate)
  • Less stress about attracting new guests (because your calendar is already full with fewer, longer-term stays)
  • Less stress about problems that can arise with each new guest (access issues, chargebacks, security)

One digital nomad staying in your unit for four weeks, for example, is equal to many more short-term stays when it comes to consistent and predictable revenue.

Higher nightly rates

As we explore in more detail below (see the “Higher income” heading below), digital nomads have more disposable income. A June 2022 McKinsey report stated: “People in the United States who…have higher incomes tend to have more options to work remotely.”

This means that digital nomads are more likely to be able to pay higher rates for a better quality stay. As a host, this means you may need to spend more at the outset to upgrade your amenities or furnishings, but you’ll be able to generate revenue with higher nightly rates aimed at the digital nomad market.

Off-season bookings

Targeting digital nomads could be a great way to increase your occupancy rates and fill up your calendar.

That’s because they generally have more flexibility than the traditional 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday, typical vacation schedule, and aren’t traveling with a specific holiday in mind.

They can travel when others can’t or won’t (in contrast to parents with kids at school, for example), so they’re excellent candidates for low seasons, and their extended stays will cover days that might otherwise remain unbooked (such as awkward mid-week slots or less popular weekends).

Low-maintenance

Digital nomads may be lower-maintenance guests than some, because they’re looking for a “home from home,” with a simple day-to-day timetable, and a desire to stay put for a while. 

They’re less likely to want to hire seven kinds of equipment in three days (unlike a family or a large group trying to pack everything into one weekend). Similarly, as they’re not looking for a super-luxe experience, they’re more likely to be happier with fewer cleanings and less high-end service.

They just want to check in, work hard, keep their head down, and may contact you every so often for tips or with isolated questions. This doesn’t mean no communication, but just of a more relaxed variety. 

As Gabi Sayer says: “The most important thing about a place is that we can build a routine, and just get things done. Host communication makes a real difference, for sure. Just every once in a while, it’s nice if they make sure everything is OK.”

This makes digital nomads easygoing guests, which may be easier for you if you’re a remote host.

Respectful to property

Digital nomads want to play and work hard, but they didn’t come to party. That means they’re likely to be respectful of your property and your neighbors, posing less of a risk than large groups of younger people, families with young kids or pets, or party-throwers.

They want to keep their space organized, and beyond a simple workspace and comfortable chair, they won’t be too demanding of your property or furnishings. This means you’ll likely save costs with this kind of guests, compared to those who may be more likely to break or misuse items.

Want to live like a local

Josh S in Spain
Digital nomads want to live like locals and get involved in the nearby community and lifestyle
Source: Josh Straczynski

As we said above, digital nomads want to stay in your place for a while and get to know the people and community. That means they’ll welcome local insights and recommendations from you (such as in a digital guidebook or pre-arrival message), and are also more likely to be receptive to local customs and tips than typical drop-in-drop-out travelers.

Also, as Josh explains, hosts can “surprise and delight” guests with extra touches that go beyond the usual level of expectations, such as a clean room. “Do you want people to comment on what a good host you are?” he says. “That’s what the words ‘surprise and delight’ really mean.” 

This might include offering guests gifts from local businesses, or arranging extra experiences through your local contacts and partners.

Digital nomads are receptive to wider experiences with local businesses, which makes them ideal guests for hosts who want to share their city or area with like-minded people.

Who are digital nomads and what are they looking for?

The demographics of digital nomads are surprisingly varied, meaning that there is considerable scope to make your rental nomad-suitable, no matter its location or style.

A variety of ages

Digital nomad demographics
Digital nomads come from many different ages and groups, MBO Partners has shown
Source: MBO Partners

The MBO Partners report found that the 2022 age range is as follows:

  • 19% Gen Z (research says these are people born 1997+, age 10-25 in 2022)
  • 42% Millennials (born 1981-1996, age 26-41)
  • 22% Gen X (born 1965-1980, age 42-57)
  • 17% Baby Boomers (born 1955-1964, age 58-67)

Covid had an impact here, too. The report states that “Covid-19 impacted the demographic mix of digital nomads,” due to older workers being at greater risk of serious illness, making them more comfortable staying at home. 

In contrast, the report said, Gen Z and Millennials rose from 48% to 62% of the total, due to being “less cautious” and having “more flexibility due to their life stage.” 

Covid has also made digital nomadism within the US (no foreign travel) more attractive. Good news for US-based rental hosts.

MBO Partners showed that “international flight and travel restrictions have made it harder to travel abroad, while health and healthcare concerns have also made travel less attractive. 

“Because of this…a resounding majority (76%) of American digital nomads are exploring the U.S. most (52%) are also reporting they plan on visiting fewer locations but spending more time at each stop, which is consistent with trends in the travel industry as a whole.”

This is also a symptom of sustainable tourism trends, with some nomads wanting to limit their carbon footprint.

Higher income

The MBO Partners study showed that 44% of American digital nomads earn $75,000 or more a year” and that “56% of remote professionals earn less than $75,000 a year.”

Digital nomads have significant disposable income, and seek higher-quality accommodation in safe areas accordingly (without tipping over into “luxury vacation” or “high-end” territory).

8 ways to capture more digital nomad bookings

Here’s how to start transforming your rentals into the perfect “working from home” haven.

1. Focus on amenities

Gabi Alps photo laptop in front of mountains
Gabi Sayer was able to enjoy this view while at work during one of his extended stays in Switzerland
Source: Gabi Sayer

Digital nomads want to know that, as a host, you can offer them everything they need for a productive and comfortable stay. 

And while you can’t necessarily control some of those factors—like the cost of living, seasonal climate, or local terrain—you can ensure that your space offers as many nomad-friendly amenities and facilities as possible. 

FlexJobs found that 52% of digital nomads cited finding reliable Wi-Fi as one of their biggest challenges, and this is likely one of the top criteria digital nomads will use when searching for their next rental.

Other priorities include: 

  • High-speed internet access – Invest in a great connection and post a screenshot of your internet speed test as proof
  • Bright, light, comfortable workspace – Take great photos during the day for your listings
  • Lots of outlets and charging stations – Ensure all those devices can be kept charged
  • Great coffee and snacks – Give your nomads the energy they need to work hard
  • Close to restaurants, bars, and within takeout radius – Offer plenty of local insights and conveniences for post-work recharging and socializing
  • Well-stocked kitchen – Give your nomads everything they need to feel at home
  • Washing machine – Many nomads travel light, so enabling clothes washing is a big plus
  • Safety – Solo travelers, especially women, want to know your rental is in a safe area and access is secure.

If your listings highlight everything digital nomads may want, searchers will feel as though you’re speaking directly to them, and be far more likely to book with confidence.

As Gabi Sayer says: “WiFi is the number one priority. And then we look to see if the place looks good, comfortable, and easy to work from.”

Martina Russo agrees that a great place to work is key. She says: “It needs to have lots of natural light coming in, cause I don’t want to just be stuck in a dark box. It’s also about the appliances I need. If I’m somewhere for a few months, I don’t want to have to go and buy things that I would expect to be there. Cleaning cloths in case I spill something in the kitchen, for example.”

Josh also explains: “The ability to wash my own clothes is amazing, because I only travel with carry-on. So a washing machine is another big pro.”

Pro tip: You can make listing amenities easier by using a channel distribution tool that connects to a wide range of channels, including major OTAs and more specialized sites, so you can keep your listings super-relevant.

Hospitable.com gives you even more control here, because—unlike many large PMSs—it never removes your ability to edit your listings directly, so you can ensure each highlights the most important features more easily.

2. Provide high-level comfort 

As we mentioned above, digital nomads make on average more than most.

This doesn’t mean that they’re looking for full-on luxury (as they’re staying for an extended period and working, rather than going “all out” on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation), and are most likely to stay in places with a lower cost of living. 

However, they are also likely to have high standards and are happy to pay for extra touches that will make their longer stay more convenient, easy, and comfortable.

Digital nomads are, therefore, more likely to gravitate toward rentals with higher-quality finishes, and extras like good-quality soaps, shampoos, sheets, towels, and nifty appliances, such as air-conditioning, dishwasher, and good-quality coffee machines.

“If a rental has a good coffee machine, then you are definitely going to get me,” says Josh. “I’m an Australian. I absolutely love fresh-ground coffee, in a fancy machine. And you don’t get many of those. I would always prioritize that over any other apartments! 

“Oh, and air-conditioning,” he adds. “You’ve got to give us the aircon and not charge extra in the middle of summer.”

Clever and refined design, without going too far into super-expensive territory, is also an added bonus for this group.

As Martina Russo says: “The place needs to look modern and be comfortable. I think a lot of digital nomads would agree. I spend a lot of hours where I work from, so I need to have a place where I can sit and work.”

3. Showcase your tech

Hospitable Guest messaging tool
Showcasing great tech such as fast online chat will please digital nomads

Hosts who want to please digital nomads should emphasize their tech stack, and leverage the full power of vacation rental-designed technology to simplify and streamline the guest journey.

That’s because, by definition, digital nomads largely work on their laptops and phones. They know their way around a screen and software, and appreciate the convenience, customization, and flexibility that technology provides.

“Digital nomads are more likely to be early adopters of technology (74%) than non-digital nomads (34%),” says MBO Partners

Similarly, as largely Millennials and Gen Z, they are the demographics that grew up with the internet. They’re used to streaming on-demand TV, next-day Amazon delivery, booking Ubers and Lyfts within minutes, and ordering short-notice online groceries and takeout delivery.

They don’t want to deal with a human to get their vacation rental keys, be hemmed in by specific “key handover times,” worry about delays, or wait around for things to happen.

Using a tool like Hospitable.com is crucial here. Automated messaging and replies mean that your digital rental guests will never be left hanging for the need-to-know information, while integrations with smart locks enable them to access their rental quickly and easily (no in-person key handover required). 

4. Target and accept last-minute bookings

Digital nomads aren’t booking vacations. They want to change up their workspace, meet new people, and experience life in a different place for a while, often without much prior thought.

As Gabi Sayer says: “I just bought flights to Colombia in two weeks’ time, yesterday. I just called my CEO and made sure that was OK with him because I’m pretty new to the role here, and he said: ‘Of course, these are your years where you can be doing whatever you want.’ 

“He doesn’t care where I am, as long as I’m getting my work done.”

As a result, unlike families or couples who might plan their stays far in advance, digital nomads are much more likely to book last-minute, and want hosts who are happy and responsive to these short-notice confirmations. 

They want to be sent all the information they need ASAP, and will expect the same level of service and attention that any guest would receive who booked weeks or months in advance.

As Josh says: “When hosts get back to people quickly, it is actually surprising and delightful. I’m blown away. I can take that mental anxiety off and move on.”

Pro tip: Take advantage of automated messaging and reply tools that use triggers linked to bookings. Especially effective if a booking is made at short notice, automated responses will help you drive last minute bookings.

And with Hospitable.com’s unified inbox, you can easily keep track of all inquiries and messages in a single place, so you never miss an inquiry, even if it’s last-minute.

5. Price competitively and be responsive to market trends

Hospitable pricing tool
Pricing competitively and keep your calendar consistently updated with Hospitable.com tools

To attract the best digital nomad guests, you’ll need to price your units competitively. Not only will this mean your listings will show up on fast, last-minute online searches, but you’ll attract more bookings from savvy travelers.

Do your vacation rental market research, Price too low, and you may attract time-wasters and people who won’t respect your property (not to mention making it harder for you to meet your revenue goals). Price too high, and you may struggle to fill your units.

Enter dynamic pricing tools that integrate with Hospitable.com, such as PriceLabs, which use hundreds of reference points to ensure your pricing is always as competitive and up-to-date as possible, no matter the demand, local events, or trends.

Hospitable’s centralized calendar means you can update your pricing from a single location.

6. Build your brand

Digital nomads care about the way you present your brand online and use social media regularly. 

They want to see you and your brand “on social,” and are likely to appreciate seeing behind-the-scenes insights into your rentals, how you prepare for direct bookings, your business strategy, personal values, and how you make your units perfect for them. 

The clue’s in the name: Digital nomads are “digital,” and often also considered to be “digital natives,” meaning that they grew up with tech. They use the internet daily and are among those most likely to be on social media, whether that’s Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok. 

And as the saying goes, “people buy from people.”

Building a vacation rental brand by displaying your company values, your high standards, and your attention to detail. Making it look good with consistent fonts, colors, image styles, high-quality photography, and professional logos will also help build trust with digital nomads. 

Maintaining a consistent and friendly social media presence, as well as consistency across all of your listings and website, will enable them to feel that they know, like, and understand you (and that you understand them) and convince them that you’re a safe booking bet.

Hospitable.com’s guest messaging features and automated triggers also enable you to build a strong rapport with guests, with helpful info and super-responsiveness, to grow trust even further.

As Josh, who as well as being a digital nomad, also runs successful vacation rentals and uses Hospitable.com to send automated messages, says: “We have canned responses. Our reviews are constantly talking about: ‘Wow, they got back to me so quickly,’ and say: ‘Josh was such a thorough host.

“What they don’t know is that I wrote those responses four years ago. Hospitable knows that this person is asking about early check-in, and uses the ‘early check-in’ canned answer. And that really matters. Getting back to people quickly is really one way to ‘surprise and delight’.”

7. Emphasize your location

Martina Russo Greece view emphasize location
A beautiful view like this one from Martina Russo’s Greece stay should feature at the top of your listings
Source: Martina Russo

Digital nomads may spend hours looking at their laptop screen, but they’re “nomads” for a reason. They want to travel and enjoy each new location. 

This means that emphasizing your location and its strong points is crucial. 

Whether your rentals are in a beachside location with year-round sunshine and views, and plenty of bars for post-work cocktails; or in an urban jungle near a ton of top-notch restaurants and networking opportunities, you’ll want to make your location sing in your listings.

As Gabi Sayer says: “When we were in Greece, the thing we loved was the porch, and this amazing view over the water. And it was comfortable to work from there. So if you have a place where we can work and enjoy the view, and the weather, that’s a huge bonus.”

Josh agrees. He says: “I’m looking for quietness. I look for a dedicated workstation, and a chair. That makes me infinitely more productive. As a bonus, I’m looking for a view, or something that allows me to stay in, but be outside and be actually seeing the city even when I’ve got my laptop out.”

Make the benefits of your location clear in your titles and descriptions, and highlight need-to-know local attractions or hotspots. Don’t be shy about outlining how your rental is in a must-visit location for a busy digital nomad who wants to play as hard as they work.

8. Create incentives for repeat guests and referrals

Digital nomads are often great networkers online and in real life, given the nature of their laptop-based roles and their need and desire to build a new community everywhere they travel. Digital nomad communities are often very tight-knit, and function via word-of-mouth. 

As Josh says: “One of the really nice things about our lifestyle is that we meet so many cool people from around the world. And we have such strong relationships with them.”

This means that offering nomads incentives to refer your stays to other like-minded travelers will likely pay dividends and drive repeat direct bookings. Similarly, once nomads find a great place to work and live, they’ll likely remember it and want to come back, even if only once every few months or years.

This means that you’ll want to set up a loyalty program for your nomads to incentivize repeat stays and referrals, create a website that drives direct bookings (to save on OTA fees for repeat stays), and make your rentals even more attractive for this particular niche.

Tools like Hospitable.com’s automated review management help entice guests to return, as you can leave them positive reviews easily. Similarly, it’s much easier to attract guests via good reviews from others, as people are far more likely to buy from hosts that have a good track record. 

Hospitable.com’s automated review tool prompts, which request reviews automatically at the exact right time (e.g. just after check-out) make it more likely that guests will leave a review, and that it will be positive. 

As always, though, giving the guest an excellent stay, and going above and beyond, is the most important thing when it comes to enticing people to come back.

As Martina Russo says: “The hospitality of the host makes me want to go back. If they’re super-nice. If they go the extra mile. For example, here in Greece, they left us a jar of their own olives, and a bottle of their own olive oil they made, cookies that they baked. 

“Things like that. It makes you feel at home, almost as if they’re your family.”

Digital nomads post-Covid: A huge STR opportunity 

The digital nomad market has positively boomed since the pandemic, and now represents a massive opportunity for vacation rental hosts. 

Switching to Hospitable.com enables you to respond to digital nomads’ specific needs, by showcasing your high-quality listings across a range of channels, improving guest communication, pricing competitively, building your brand, and getting great reviews—saving time, money, and stress, and attracting more direct, repeat bookings too.

With millions having joined the digital nomad community since 2020, and many more set to do so within the next few years, there’s never been a better time to get your rentals digital-nomad-ready.

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