The trend toward longer near-in stays and flexible travel time could bring new visitors to your destination.
Remote work is on the rise. Twitter, Shopify and Square are just a few of the many global companies shifting to a remote workforce indefinitely. This year in the United States, remote workers account for more than two-thirds of economic activity. This change is flowing into travel behaviours, with Airbnb noting that the volume of American reviewers mentioning remote work has tripled from the same period in 2019.
Many travellers are looking for a new kind of trip: one that pairs their remote work lifestyle with a longer stay far from urban centres. Often these are domestic trips, and it’s easy to see why. Without a vaccine for COVID-19, international travel proves difficult. Flights are limited and expensive. Some destinations require a two-week quarantine upon arrival and regular coronavirus tests.
This new travel behaviour may bring fresh opportunities. The trends toward domestic travel and longer stays could help your destination’s tourism restart by boosting demand for accommodation, where a recovery is desperately needed. In the United States, hotel occupancy has decreased 31.7%, while European hotels experienced a 72.8% decline from the same period in 2019.
Remote work packages are gaining in popularity as an interim solution to fill beds. For example, hotels in California’s wine region are offering tailored wine and work options, while other U.S. providers are developing “schoolhouse packages.” The Japanese government is on board too. In an effort to boost local travel, it is carrying out WiFi infrastructure upgrades across Japanese national parks and camping grounds.
With classrooms moving online in 2020, many hotels have started to offer schoolcation packages. Image: August de Richelieu, Pexels
If remote work was on the rise pre-COVID-19, the pandemic accelerated this trend by showing that a dedicated office space may not be necessary for productivity. A Harvard Business Review study has found that 16% of workers are likely to stay remote well into the future, enhancing the likelihood of a work-life-travel blend.
“Tourism and travellers have evolved. Before, most people preferred to observe the destination and do the touristy stuff. Now, more want to be a part of the community,” says Destination Think’s Chief Strategist, William Bakker. “Spending an extended period of time in a single place makes you feel like a local – even if it’s temporary.”
Your DMO might also need to think more like a local to help travellers get what they need most: “Visitors won’t only be looking for things to do but also for the amenities residents need, like where to shop, get a haircut or go for a run.”
This slow travel approach could also reduce carbon emissions. Travellers will likely use less fuel getting between places, and their new patterns could cut down on packaging waste from items like mini shampoos and soaps designed for hotels and carry-on luggage. Slow travel could also help disperse travellers: for example, family units who would normally be limited to taking vacations during school breaks might be able to take the classroom with them at any time of year.
Your destination marketing organization may find a way to adapt to serve remote workers and digital nomads. These travellers are not necessarily new. But the normalization of work from home is likely to be a lasting side-effect of the pandemic, and this increase in long-term travellers could present opportunities for your DMO to support industry partners. But, you need to do your due diligence: “This is a strategy a lot of people are starting to use,” says William. “To be competitive, you need to stay true to your destination’s DNA and its unique selling proposition.” Before diving in, he advises researching your market segment, considering targeting niche workers within that segment and ensuring your destination is set up for this situation with supporting infrastructure and experiences.
Remote work is here to stay. And the online workforce is revelling in the travel flexibility that will come with this. Done correctly, your DMO can too.
Feature image credit: Vlada Karpovich from Pexels