A key question about digital nomad life is the “why?” — and that’s fairly easy to answer. Typically, it’s freedom to explore the best of the world without constraints. Why work from an office park cubicle when you can work from a beach in Bali?
In recent years, countries have invested heavily in digital nomad opportunities as more people find work flexibility. Spain is the latest in a long list of countries proposing new laws which outline a place in society for people who want to live and spend in the country for a period longer than most tourist visas, without taking any local jobs.
Having a desk job and long term housing can tie people down and make things like spontaneous travel, or the joy of catching seasons in their prime far more difficult than they’d ideally be. And for that reason, one would assume hotels to be a very popular choice for digital nomads. They’d also be wrong.
For those with location flexibility, it’s wildly exciting. But for others…
The rise in digital nomad opportunities has lead to unique housing issues from local rental agencies to Airbnb, and hotels have largely missed out on the big trend. As the general travel boon plateau’s, hotels are taking another look.
Hotels are increasingly creating products to lure nomads away from long term Airbnb’s or apartment rentals. And as we see increased evidence of friction between nomads and locals, it may be good news for everyone.
From Bangkok To Barcelona
Thailand is attempting to position itself as a perfect haven for digital nomads.
The country is looking to recover from a prolonged tourism slump and having well heeled digital nomads spending money in local shops, bars, cafes and restaurants certainly doesn’t hurt efforts to boost local economies.
There’s a lot to unpack about the impacts of digital nomads though – and many focuses haven’t fully been analyzed. On margin, is it better to have outside people contributing to local economies, than paying standard resident taxes? I’d argue yes, but that’s just me. Is this revitalizing areas, or driving up prices and forcing locals further out?
Mexico City would have plenty to say about that topic, right now.
And this is where the topic of hotels and nomads becomes interesting.
Apartments, either rented long term of sublet via an Airbnb or similar equivalent typically offer far better setups for nomads who need work space, bedrooms and other facilities like washing or cooking spaces. Dependable wifi is a big one.
They’re also typically cheaper by a fair margin. But, as nomads flock, rents go up — and people get pushed out of local neighborhoods.
A growing number of hotels are attempting to change that, by attracting digital nomads who aren’t necessarily going nomadic for the extreme savings on lodging, but for the locations themselves.
Maybe Bangkok for a month, then Ho Chi Minh, then Singapore, eh?
If compelling hooks are created, hotel desire to court nomads might solve the rub between nomads and locals who are upset by changing neighborhood dynamics. A “come and spend, but don’t take our housing” sort of deal could emerge.
Take 137 Pillars in Bangkok, a luxury hotel now offering 7 night and 14 night “digital nomad” packages, rather than traditional hotel stays. For what it’s worth, Barbados was one of the first countries to create hotel packages for long stay visitors.
Back in Bangkok, nomads at 137 Pillars are offered five star accommodations, plus…
- Complimentary high-speed wifi
- Daily Baan Borneo Club benefits include all-day breakfast, afternoon tea, coffee and snacks, and Sundowner drinks with panoramic views of Bangkok
- Thai or Aromatherapy Massage at Nitra Serenity Centre once per week.
- Yoga or Meditation or Muay Thai class once per week.
- 24-hour access to a fitness center and golf driving range
- Daily maid service
- In-house discount from 10-15% on additional food and beverage, spa, laundry, and other services.
- A Thai SIM card is available for purchase and allows for unlimited WiFi.
- Suites Guests have 24/7 access to the rooftop pool, shuttle services, and butler service.
- Residence guests have access to an infinity-edge swimming pool on Level 27 and shuttle services
Whether it’s for you, or not, you have to admit it sounds alright. Hotel groups including Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Radisson and many more have all teased longer stay packages, either as global initiatives, or bespoke offers from individual properties.
Marriott getting into the vacation rental business is a clear sign that it doesn’t want to lose customers who choose apartments over hotels.
At circa $1,000 a week the 137 Pillars offer certainly isn’t cheap at all, but a New Yorker accustomed to renting a one bedroom apartment with no amenities for more, would likely be wowed.
It’s not savings that’s being chased for many nomads, but an ability to explore. And yes, obviously, there are plenty of long term rental apartments available in Bangkok for under $1,000 a month.
Hotels Exploring Enticements
Why is an apartment better than a hotel room? Is it strictly price? Is it the added living room, or cooking facilities?
Hotels have missed the digital nomad boat, and designing longer stay packages, or even tailoring rates and amenities to consider what someone making a hotel a “home” might need is really catching on. It’s even fueling hybrid residence slash hotel builds.
There are many features residences would love from hotels, and obviously vice versa.
The challenge for hotels will be how to incorporate alternative longer term pricing, without negatively impacting guest perception. If nomads are paying $100 a night for a great hotel based on rolling seven day stays, while guest staying five nights are at $250 a night, there’s risk of cannibalizing the core business.
At the same time, longer term rates provide stability, and offering discounts for buying more of something is experienced in almost every sector. It’s how Costco works, after all. Can hotels get in on the trend? Only time will tell.