Travel restrictions, physical distancing requirements and border closures due to the coronavirus crisis have everyone rethinking how we work and travel.
Experts say that there are more remote workers now than at any time in history and the trend is expected to only continue upwards as companies adjust to socially-distanced set ups.
Some destinations are looking to capitalise on this “new normal” by paving the way for “work tourists” to visit, stay and work remotely in the country for an extended period of time.
For travellers able to work from anywhere and craving a change of scenery, here are three destinations rolling out the welcome mat.
Barbados: 12 months in paradise
If you like the idea of switching your virtual Zoom beach background for the real thing then Barbados’s 12-month welcome stamp might appeal. The Caribbean nation has opened applications for its year-long visa that gives work tourists 12 months of unrestricted access to the island.
Applicants can bring their spouse or partner along, as well as any children or dependents under the age of 26.
“Although the Covid-19 pandemic has been a tremendous challenge to people around the world, we believe it has also opened up opportunities,” said Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados.
"We recognise more people are working remotely, sometimes in very stressful conditions, with little option for vacation. Our new 12 month Barbados Welcome Stamp is a visa that allows you to relocate and work from one of the world’s most beloved tourism destinations.”
Tourism is the leading economic sector in Barbados, but Covid-19 restrictions have seen it come to a screeching halt. Flights in and out the country restarted on July 12, but most beaches, hotels, resorts and local businesses remain relatively empty.
Work tourists keen to take advantage of pristine shorelines and coconut palms can apply online for the visa and only need a handful of documents to do so.
But before you drag out your suitcases, it’s worth noting this isn’t a free ride. A non-refundable application fee of $2,000 (Dh7,345) per person, or $3,000 (Dh11,017) per family is required. Applicants also need to commit to earning more than $50,000 (Dh183,625) over the course of the year – which means you’d need to be banking a monthly salary of around Dh15,300.
All travellers headed to Barbados are advised to take a Covid-19 test before travelling. There’s also testing on arrival in place, with 48-hour quarantine periods required until results are ready. Covid levels on the island are low, Barbados has only recorded 108 cases to date.
Estonia: Digital nomad visas
The Baltic country of Estonia is one of the most digitally advanced countries in the world, and remote workers are set to get access to its thriving tech scene with a new visa scheme. The European country is launching a digital nomad visa and plans to issue around 2,000 of them annually.
In an effort to entice more work tourists to the country, Estonian authorities plan to launch the visa to give travellers who are able to work remotely the right to stay in the country for up to one year.
The scheme isn’t up and running yet, but will launch in August. When it does, it will be open to all nationalities, as long as there are no Covid-19 entry restrictions on the country they are coming from.
Applicants for the visa will need to prove they can work independent of location and must earn the monthly income threshold for living in Estonia. That’s currently set at 3,504 euros (Dh15,000) and needs six months of bank statements as proof. All work tourists will also need valid health insurance.
The form is live here and applications are expected take around 15 days once processing starts. The application fee is 100 euros (Dh428).
Estonia offers a great digital infrastructure for nomads and remote workers. It’s also a beautiful place to stay to explore the historic old town of Tallinn, the beaches along the Baltic coastline and the country’s thick forests and rolling hills.
To date, the country has only recorded 2,033 cases of the coronavirus and travellers who qualify for the digital nomad visa will need to follow set rules to prevent the spread of the virus. These include 14-days of self-isolation for anyone arriving from a country where the rate of infection is above 16 per 100,000.
Georgia: Remote worker visas
Already a popular destination with digital nomads, Georgia is seeking to grow its appeal as a work tourism destination with a new visa aimed at remote workers.
Georgia has effectively responded to the coronavirus pandemic, recording only 1,131 cases to date, and authorities are now trying to restart the tourism economy. One way they’re doing this is by opening the borders to select groups of people – among them foreigners looking to work remotely.
The new remote worker visa will allow people from any country to live and work in the Balkan country for up to one year. Applicants must be able to cover the cost of their mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival.
More details are yet to be announced, but it is set to start in September when the country is also planning to reopen to international tourism. The online application system will be live here and will ask for personal information, a certificate of employment and proof of valid travel insurance for the duration of the visit.
If you can work remotely and are craving mountains, a climate that rivals the Mediterranean and a low-cost of living, Georgia could be a good pick. And since there’s no discrimination against travellers from countries that are grappling with high numbers of Covid-19, it could also be a safe haven for anyone currently living in an area with a high rate of the virus.