How digital nomads see Greece; Crete popular but internet a sore point
On the island of Crete, in the city of Chania, Swede Boel Axelsson is just settling in. The head of administration for a Swedish company, she plans to work remotely from the Greek island for the next few months taking advantage of the weather and local cuisine.
She has visited Greece several times in the past, she says, and is eager to prolong her summer, but is a bit unsure about whether she will be able to meet other like-minded people.
“The only real concern I have is how to meet other people in the same situation and also how to get a feeling of ”home” quickly as this will be my first time going somewhere as a digital nomad,” she tells GreekGuru.net.
Axelsson is part of a global community that is unplugging their computer and moving abroad to work remotely.
In an industry estimated to be worth 670 billion euros globally, there are some 70 countries worldwide that offer some sort of visa targeting digital nomads.
Over the summer, Greece joined the race, introducing a visa that allows non-EU foreign nationals to live and work in the country for up to two years on the condition that they have a foreign employer and earn at least 3,500 euros per month. A higher income is needed if dependent family members are also involved.
The investments that may result from an influx of digital nomads in Greece are far reaching, with a focus on the property sector as living quarters are among the first needs that must be met.
According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, if Greece manages to attract 100,000 digital nomads in one year, and they stayed in the country for 6 months, the benefit to the economy could reach 1.6 billion euros a year.
“An obvious area that may see increased investment as a result is serviced apartments, which is a trend that many hotels are looking into adding to their offerings for a range of reasons,” Georgios Filiopoulos, CEO of Enterprise Greece, tells GreekGuru.net in an interview.
On a global list of 1,345 cities put together by nomadlist.com, Athens comes in 45th position, scoring well on safety and weather but losing points on being expensive and crowded.
Greece’s rules for the digital nomads visa have drawn mixed reactions with some describing the 3,500 euro minimum income as being too high.
Other don't see that as an obstacle, but most agree that more work must be done in improving Greece's internet, one of the slowest and most expensive in Europe.
Improvements to internet connections are crucial to making the country more attractive to those working online, says Hazique Memon, who owns Greek Escape, a coliving and coworking space on Crete.
Memon, who also operates a similar business in Switzerland, said that some of the first guests he hosted were animation studios, e-commerce and event managers, along with developers marketers, data analysts, authors and PhD students. On average guests stay for about a month at his facilities “as that seems to be a minimum period needed to get acquainted with the community and culture,” Memon tells GreekGuru.net.
Improved infrastructure is also need to help make cities easier to live in, particularly outside of the country's two largest urban centers, Athens and Thessaloniki.
On Crete, which is turning into something of a hub for Greece’s digital nomads, work is underway on improving roads and bikes paths but there is considerable room for improvements to public transport.
“At the moment, most guests choose to rent a car, however in the long-term, this is not a sustainable solution. Islands also need to open activities during the winter season as digital nomads enjoy low seasons as well,” adds Memon.