Over the course of the past year, many of us have posed ourselves the same question: ‘What am I going to do when all this is over?’ Luckily for the globetrotters among us, the Buenos Aires City government is already paving the way for a new type of tourist to enter the country.
City Hall is looking to seduce and attract ‘digital nomads’ to the capital, a type of worker seldom heard of a few years ago, but that is perhaps closer to the new normal in 2021. These world citizens are remote workers who choose to combine travel with work, and they can often be found in coffee shops with a steady WiFi connection or cheap but trendy co-working spaces — two things Buenos Aires certainly isn’t lacking.
With its post-pandemic plan, the City Government is hoping to attract these long-stay international visitors to Argentina, whether remote workers or international students.
According to estimates by the Buenos Aires City Tourist Board, in 2019 around 8,000 European and American visitors stayed for more than 90 days in the capital.
By 2023, City Hall hopes to be playing host to around 22,000 digital nomads, which, given their greater average expenditure compared to other travellers, could mean an injection of US$139 million into Buenos Aires’ economy.
A new programme put together by Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta's administration includes a special visa for digital nomads allowing temporary residence for up to one year, as well as exclusive benefits in popular flexible working spaces such as HIT, Huerta, La Maquinita Co, AreaTres and WeWork. The government has also launched a website answering frequent queries from travellers, promoting activities and rental options for digital nomads.
Those who register on the site will even receive a Welcome Kit upon arrival at Ezeiza airport, including that all-important Sube transport card. Information can also be found online about academic courses offered to international students.
Buenos Aires has become a top destination for digital nomads in recent years, thanks to its thriving coffee shop culture, vibrant nightlife, artistic scene and culinary offerings – especially given that all of it can be experienced for a fraction of what it would cost in many European cities.
“Buenos Aires has a lot to offer people who want to spend more than a few weeks here,” said Fernando Straface, the City Government’s Secretary General and Secretary for International Relations.
“The combination of good quality but a low cost of living, great culture, diversity, human capital and entrepreneurial spirit makes it one of the most competitive cities in the region,” said the City official.
In the 2020 Expat City Ranking — based on factors from quality of life, settling in, urban work life and finance — Buenos Aires was ranked seventh, scoring particularly high in the ‘settling-in’ index.
“Something that I think is very important, for any City to become a digital nomad hub, is that there has to be some sort of community,” said Rosanna Lopes, an online marketer from the Netherlands who has been living as a digital nomad for the last five years.
“I think that it’s a place that’s really good for digital nomads. The Internet is amazing. there’s so much in terms of things to do in the city, the food’s amazing,” said Lopes, who has set herself up in Buenos Aires on two separate occasions.
Ellany Lea, a Canadian success coach who has travelled to 131 different countries, landed in Buenos Aires in February 2020, just before the pandemic.
Asked why she chose Buenos Aires as her next destination, she told the Times: “When I move to a place I look for good weather, the second thing is a low cost of living [and] I wanted a place with an international airport.”
Lea added: “I need a pre-built community, and I had that here.”
The new normal
The global coronavirus pandemic has acted as a catalyst for remote work, proving to many businesses and organisations alike that many roles can be fulfilled from any location with Internet access.
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According to a survey carried out by MBO partners, the population of digital nomads in the US was around 10.9 million in 2020 – a 49 percent increase from the amount reported in 2019.
Traditionally, digital nomads were freelancers, travel bloggers or start-up tech entrepreneurs, but recently many other roles have been added to the list, such as language tutor, virtual assistant, graphic designer and social media manager.
With fewer people shackled to their desks, numbers of digital nomad are surging globally, with many pursuing a lifestyle in which they work and simultaneously travel and discover new cultures.
“I have been able to really experience local cultures and their food and the people, more so than as a tourist before because there’s such limited time and you’re on a schedule to visit and do things as fast as possible before you leave. I now can take my time,” Lopes told the Times.
“I feel like I have had so much more opportunity to really understand the world, to understand what ‘normal’ for other people looks like,” she contended.
“I have endless stories and that is because I’ve lived this lifestyle,” agreed Lea. “If I was just a tourist or a traveller, I don’t think I would have had as many stories to tell.”