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John McGrath – COVID-19 creates the ‘digital nomad’

John McGrath
John McGrath
25/10/2021 | 4 MIN READ

Overseas travel looks set to recommence very shortly, starting with NSW on November 1. This is fantastic news for Australians, who pride themselves on being a nation of travellers.

 

Before the pandemic hit us, Australians took a record 11.2 million short term overseas trips in the 2019 financial year, with our top destinations being New Zealand, Indonesia and the U.S..

 

However, when the international border closed in March 2020, our overseas holiday plans were

shattered and our movement within cities has been continually restricted during outbreaks.

 

As discussed in our recently released annual McGrath Report, holiday homes have increasingly replaced our overseas holidays during this time, and the opportunity to work from anywhere has created a new type of traveller – the digital nomad.

 

These city dwellers have leveraged Australia’s burgeoning home sharing market to leave the cities and live in holiday homes instead, spending a few months in various different towns and immersing themselves in the communities of coastal, mountain or rural regions, all while working remotely.

 

According to an Airbnb survey, 23% of people working from home in the first six months of the pandemic adopted a digital nomad lifestyle. With a laptop in their luggage, these white-collar executives chose to spend the pandemic period exploring Australia in a more meaningful way.

 

Airbnb and Stayz have done a roaring trade servicing this new type of long-term holiday home renter.

 

For city dwellers, the cabin fever of recurrent lockdowns has resulted in more regional travel to break the monotony of a socially restricted life.

 

According to Airbnb, regional vacationers have increasingly sought uniquely experiential holidays in lieu of overseas experiences. Treehouses, cabins, yurts, tiny houses and farm stays are popular, as holidaymakers prioritise seclusion and safety, preferably within driving distance of home.

 

Australians have also been spending more on their local holidays, with their vacation budgets expanded due to government stimulus and higher rates of household savings.

 

In May 2021, Australians took 5.3 million overnight trips to regional Australia and spent $3.5 billion on them. Compared to May 2019, this was only a 6% decline in the number of trips – a very small drop considering long periods of lockdown – but a significant 23% increase in expenditure.

 

The biggest spending increases have been in regional South Australia (up 83%), regional Queensland

(up 31%) and regional NSW (up 24%), according to data from Tourism Research Australia.

 

For those fortunate enough to own their own holiday home, these secondary residences have been an irresistible refuge during COVID-19.

 

They are regularly retreating to their second homes, most of them in premium fringe areas such as Sydney’s northern beaches, the NSW Blue Mountains and Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, where they can work remotely in comfortable and familiar surroundings.

 

With our holiday patterns changing during the pandemic, people have also begun to think about investing in a holiday home.

 

Regional property markets are booming and not everyone is feeling ready to go back overseas, especially given less than half of the global population is fully or partially vaccinated.

 

So, Australian holiday homes are looking appealing as both a financial investment and a safe place to go for vacations until more of the world is vaccinated and quarantine and lockdowns are things of the past. This is another property trend emerging out of the pandemic and I think it’s set to grow.

 

To read more about digital nomads and holiday homes, download the McGrath Report 2022.

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This article originally appeared in The Real Estate Conversation

 

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