Skip to content
Home » Dispatches » Will big tech layoffs burst the Digital Nomad hype bubble?

Will big tech layoffs burst the Digital Nomad hype bubble?

If you traveled in the past two years, you probably noticed the tourism and hospitality industries making a focused sales pitch for digital nomad dollars. But will recent mass layoffs across the tech industry sink the digital nomad party boat? From working on the road around the world for the past year, seeing the infrastructure hotels and government agencies have been setting up for digital nomads, there are a couple of reasons why I think recent mass layoffs, and the reduction in remote work perks, will suck the wind out of the digital nomadism sails (after everybody blows their golden parachutes on cool trips). My love for mixing metaphors, however, will continue strong.

Robots don't take beach vacations.

Recent mass layoffs in the tech industry have dampened the primary catalyst fueling hype around digital nomads in the travel industry. Companies like Microsoft, Meta, Salesforce, Alphabet and Twitter (albeit for its own uniquely disastrous reason) have all made significant cuts to their respective global workforce. Microsoft announced layoffs of 10,000 employees and cancelled 5,000 roles it was hiring for. Meta revealed it had let go of over 10,000 employees. Salesforce is cutting 10% of its staff. Alphabet (Google’s parent company) has slashed 6% of its worldwide workforce (around 12,000 employees). TechCrunch is keeping a running tally of tech layoffs and has already clocked up 168,243 layoffs in tech for the first three months of this year.

In the near term, many of those people may travel if they’ve received a decent severance package. But after this year, I don’t expect to see this downsizing reversed.

Two tech workers (who are not digital nomads) take a break in their office of empty typewriter desks
The two remaining workers at a big tech company take a break during their 1000-hour shift.

Companies don't trust humans out of the office anymore.

These layoffs point to a clear trend towards downsizing within the tech industry, which was a major source of high-paying remote jobs. But even the remaining jobs are likely to be less remote. In addition to its layoffs, Meta also announced it’s no longer hiring for remote-only roles.

Across industries, the remote work party is over. Capital One announced last week that it expects all of its employees to be at their desks (in an office) Tuesdays through Thursdays. One digital nomad posted on Reddit that their company was forcing them to at least work in the United States even if they were going to work from home. So they’re now looking for a way to keep their laptop in the US and remotely connect to it from somewhere around the world so they could appear like they weren’t outside of the country. Good luck to them!

Word came down from management last quarter that all of the company's large language models need to meet in the office every Wednesday for community-building.

Aren't there lots and lots of digital nomads?

I thought so, too. But more people use the term than are actually on the ground traveling. It seems much more common that somebody does it for a period of a few months each year. And a running joke on public digital nomad forums is that 90% of the posts are a variation of: “Just finished high school and need to become a digital nomad. No skills and don’t like much, what remote job can I do to become a digital nomad? I found a cheap flight for next week and have already sold everything…”

What used to be known as “backpacking” has become “digital nomading”. I don’t meet many people running a business while traveling around the world, but I do meet many that are working casual part-time remote gigs to make enough money for something like a dorm room at a hostel.

The infrastructure for that has existed for decades. I’m not knocking that at all. I backpacked from Vietnam to Belgium overland a decade ago. That’s not what has driven investment in remote work infrastructure. When Hyatt sends out an email promoting workcations and free meeting rooms at their hotels, they’re not selling bunkbeds for 20 Euros per night. They’re going for 200 Euros per night (and they have too many unnecessary pillows).

Likewise, countries implementing infrastructure for digital nomads, aren’t targeting backpackers with smartphones aspiring to a handful of likes on an Instagram Reel calling themselves a “Marketing Entrepreneur”. Hotel chains and government agencies were building infrastructure for remote working staff at big tech and financial companies, convinced the remote work revolution was here to stay and would only grow.

Thailand’s digital nomad visa, for instance, requires at least $80k USD per year as an employee (for at least 3 years) at a publicly traded company or a private company with annual revenue above $150 million dollars. That’s just a little more than your one-person social media marketing agency is making, right? 

A robot digital nomad backpacker looks around their dorm room at a youth hostel in Europe
ProductivityBotTheta24 was excited to see Europe on a budget but as they searched the dorm room for an available power outlet, they wondered if they might be getting too old for the youth hostel lifestyle...

What happens now?

As big companies put a halt to remote work policies, the travel industry might get left with a lot of digital nomad infrastructure and not many digital nomads who can actually afford it. Without the big tech paychecks that were once fueling it, the digital nomadism wave might have already peaked in some ways. Expect to see many news articles around the world in the coming year reporting that recently launched digital nomad visas have seen far fewer applications than expected.

Of course people will still work remotely, but the incentive for the travel and tourism industry to cater their offering towards a particular type of remote worker might diminish. When we throw AI into that mix, decimating the low-paying online jobs, the remote work situation gets even bleaker.

Related Posts:

1 thought on “Will big tech layoffs burst the Digital Nomad hype bubble?”

  1. Pingback: AI is Coming for the Easy Digital Nomad Jobs • The Mindful Field Guide

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *