'Digital Nomads' Flock Here, and Locals Aren't Thrilled

Cape Town, South Africa, illustrates a global trend
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2024 10:01 AM CDT
'Digital Nomads' Flock Here, and Not Everyone Is Happy
A view of Cape Town, South Africa.   (Getty / littlewormy)

A category of workers known as digital nomads is growing in ranks around the world, and the BBC reports that Cape Town, South Africa, illustrates both the positive and negative aspects of the trend.

  • The term: Digital nomads are typically younger people who can work wherever they have an internet connection, and they take advantage by traveling the world, per apartmenttherapy.com.
  • Cape Town: It's a popular destination, with these temporary workers gathering to surf, dive, hike, and generally have fun in their free time, per the BBC. "Cape Town is a big city, but it is also quite intimate," says a 29-year-old German photographer who has made the city part of her rotation. "It is not too crazy."

  • The upside: These nomads bring in money to the local economy, so much so that South Africa is considering a special visa to allow them to stay longer than the typical 90 days. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the move earlier this year, with the details still being worked out, per Business Insider. The president's newsletter specifically cited "so-called digital nomads, who are able to work from any location in the world." Those who qualify would likely need to make a certain income threshold and have "critical skills." Other nations including Canada, Japan, South Korea, and the Czech Republic have similar digital nomad visas, per apartmenttherapy.com.
  • The downside: Cape Town locals say the influx is pricing them out of their own city. Rents are rising, as is the cost of eating out. The city is facing what 25-year-old Az'emahle Dyubeni calls a "digital nomad epidemic," though the city government has pledged to protect local communities. "This means cultivating a destination that not only captivates visitors but also enriches the lives of those who live and work here," says one alderman. Whether the city will be able to strike the balance remains to be seen.
(More Cape Town stories.)

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