The rise of nomadism and how travel and hospitality are responding

nomad“The question you should be asking isn’t, “What do I want?” or “What are my goals?” but “What would excite me?”  Tim Ferriss

 Like the overall theme in Tim Ferriss’s best seller “The 4 Hour Work Week”, more and more people are becoming dissatisfied with spending their lives seemingly stuck in one place, working at the same job for years, while yearning for true experiences that connect deep in their soul.  Following the great recession of 2008 and the increased effect of globalization, more and more people have the opportunity to combine travel and work.

Who wouldn’t want the chance to combine travelling, working, meeting new people and having fun?  What’s the alternative?  To be stuck in an office or cubicle?  No thanks!

A brief history

Nomadic people have been around for centuries – moving from place to place, seeking work or simply survival.   From the Druze people who roam the desert in Southern Israel, to the gypsies and travelers who meander the highlands of Scotland, nomadism has been a feature of humanity for centuries.

Fast forward a few centuries to today in 2019, and nomadism is not simply an emerging trend but very much a fixture of our world.  Walk into any coworking space, coffee shop or open space in most cities in the world and you will see a sea of people, from everywhere, living and working together. No hipster beard or Macbook is required to become a nomad.

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Entrepreneur writer and fellow nomad Danny Forster defines a nomad as someone who stored, sold, or gave away pretty much of their physical belongings. Someone with no plans to come back or settle somewhere for a longer term.”  While that’s a reasonably succinct definition, there are also nomads who have made plans to travel and work for a certain period of time – i.e. a few months out on the road travelling and working, give them a new perspective on life and their priorities, but still either keeping their apartment or roots grounded back home.

Coffee shops and the like are an attractive location for digital nomads due to Wi-Fi, a place to sit and work and supply of coffee – not to mention people watching and interaction that is crucial for creative professionals to soak up.

One industry expert, hotelier Ian Schrager, believes that co-living is the next big disrupter to the industry and will blur the lines further between hotels and residential spaces.

Both poor & rich creative professionals top the list

2018 research from MBO Partners offered insight into the demographics of nomads.  The majority are male and young, 31% are female and 54% are actually older than 38 years old.  The split between full time and part time workers is 54% and 46% respectively.  38% report earning less than $10,000 per year, which does nothing to help the image of creative types struggling to survive, but richer monied professionals are also embracing nomadism with 16% reporting earnings of $75,000 or more.

According to the same research, while they come from a variety of industries, the majority are creative professionals (writers, designers, editors and content creators).  You may be surprised to know that IT professionals (developers, programmers) follow suit, helping to dismiss the myth of IT as a rather boring job.

Lastly, those in ecommerce and the marketing field.  Who wouldn’t want to work 4 hours a day, growing their eCommerce business, making a lot of money, while traveling and exploring?

Better at their jobs

According to the same research from MBO, existing creative professionals cite increased productivity as a key benefit of living and working remotely.  They can focus on specific projects, without disruptions or interruptions.  Meeting new similar type people ‘on the road’ helps avoid any feelings of isolation or loneliness, which would otherwise negatively affect productivity.

The inspiration that comes from travelling, meeting new people and exploring new places must be like an extra shot of dopamine to creative professionals.

What’s next?

Hospitality is adapting and changing to cater to this new type of traveler; the nomad.  Mixed-use is the new trend term right now in travel.  Hostels, restaurants, hotels and even co-working spaces are all experimenting with the mixed-use format offering places to stay, work, sleep, meet, connect and experience.  All to ensure maximum appeal to this new demographic.

Even the higher end of the market is adapting to these trends.  Luxury is now not just about impeccable service and a super swish product, but location based cultural experiences are part of the new luxury standard.

While many are combining hospitality with certain aspects of nomadism, the new hospitality firms below have taken it to another level by also offering co-living into the mix.  By redefining the notion live, work and play for nomads, they have redefined travel and hospitality.

New hospitality firms that understand the new way of travelling, and ‘get’ nomads include Ace Hotels, Selina, Hoxton Hotels and Roam.

Ace Hotels

Ace Hotels have 9 properties across the US and England and was set up initially to cater to creative professionals. Through brand stewardship ensuring the physical property, furniture, lights, food and beverage is authentic, to the careful curation of art, music and local artists to ensure authenticity.  Ace succeeded by building their business around the key theme of inclusivity and local.  Walk into any Ace lobby and you will see people working, meeting and connecting – and most of them are not guests of the hotel.

Selina – the new hospitality frontier

Embracing community, travel, work, life and play, Selina started in 2014 with the first location in Venao, Panama.  What sets Selina apart from the earlier type of hospitality firm, is they have been designed from the outset to create a sense of community between travelers and guests.  The physical property, while important, is of equal importance to people connecting through co-working spaces to encourage connection, collaboration and coworking to surfing, music festivals and events.  Few doubt their plan to rise to the top given their recent funding round.

Hoxton Hotels

From a background in London’s once gritty Hoxton and Shoreditch area, although since gentrified, Hoxton Hotels, like Ace, are inclusive of their local community, championing local artist.  The design and décor make for a soothing place to stay and work, and with a colour palette that is Instagram friendly.


Similar to Selina, Roam offers a collection of coliving spaces in the UK, USA, Bali and Japan.  The focus from Roam is also coliving and coworking and allow travelers to ‘roam’ (get it!) together.  What’s impressive about Roam is they admit their average age of travelers is 38 – in stark contrast to some competitors who openly admit they are targeting millenniums!  Also appealing is their human stories of guests on their site that add a personal touch.

Exciting future

The outlook for nomadism is exciting and thrilling.

Companies, from SME to multinational organizations, already recruit remote workers and with the rise in demand for such a lifestyle and new products and services aimed at the nomadic workforce, more and more companies will see the benefits, both economic and real, of not just hiring remote workers, but allowing and encouraging their workforce to adopt a nomadic lifestyle.

Tags: mixed use, nomad


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