By necessity, the COVID-19 pandemic caused companies to move many employees out of the office and transition them to telecommuting, and it's been a shift that's proven both practical and long-lasting for much of the workforce.
The flexibility afforded by work-from-home arrangements has essentially freed those workers to do their jobs from anywhere with a reliable internet connection, and many are taking the opportunity to combine work with leisure to an unprecedented degree. With the 'workcation' trend now booming, U.K.-based travel site Holidu conducted an analysis of the world's top cities across multiple data points to determine their overall desirability as 'working vacation' destinations.
"The events of the past year and a half have completely shifted the ways in which we work, showing us that we don't always have to be in the office five days a week to do our jobs," Sarah Siddle, Holidu's public relations and marketing manager, told CNBC. "A workation is the perfect way to spend an extended period of time in a destination you want to explore without the limitations of staying within yearly holiday allowances."
For its 2021 'Workation Index', Holidu ranked 150 global cities, based on a wide range of considerations, such as WiFi connectivity, co-working spaces, travel and even the price of after-work drinks. It also took into account the costs of accommodation and food, the local climate and the number of "things to do" in the area rated at four stars or above.
This year, the Thai capital of Bangkok tops the list, with an overall affordable cost of living, high percentage of English-speakers, wealth of attractions and over 450,000 free WiFi spots in the city, as well as corporate infrastructure put in place by the many multinational companies that have relocated to Bangkok in recent years.
"All the cities that secured top spot places managed to do so mostly due to their very affordable cost of living, with the price of accommodation, food and drinks offering extremely attractive prices," Siddle said. "On top of this, these cities are cultural hotspots in their own rights, all offering an array of amazing things to see and do."
World's Top 10 Cities for Workations:
1. Bangkok, Thailand
2. New Delhi, India
3. Lisbon, Portugal
4. Barcelona, Spain
5. Buenos Aires, Argentina (tied)
5. Budapest, Hungary (tied)
7. Mumbai, India
8. Istanbul, Turkey
9. Bucharest, Romania
10. Phuket, Thailand
It's interesting to note that, while countries like India and Thailand took more than one of the top spots, no U.S. cities made the list. In fact, the highest-ranked U.S. city, Los Angeles, came in 30th place. While some had important qualities to recommend them (New York City took second place worldwide in terms of co-working spaces, San Francisco and San Diego were ranked third and fourth globally for WiFi connectivity and Phoenix and Las Vegas respectively took fourth and fifth for "duration of sunshine"), cost of living likely knocked some U.S. cities out of the running.
Siddle said that the widespread trend of working from anywhere, or digital nomadism, is likely to have staying power. "We expect to see this trend rise over the next few years as more companies are giving employees the flexibility to continue to work while they take longer trips abroad, in turn resulting in a better work-life balance," she said.
A recent analysis of booking data by travel-organizing app TripIt revealed a parallel pattern of more people taking longer trips this year-staying eight to 13 days, as well as 14 or more days. Those numbers are ten times greater than were seen in 2019, a trend that is at least partly attributable to customers' newfound ability to mix in business with leisure.
"Eighty-nine percent of global business travelers said they would add personal vacation time onto their trips in the next 12 months, and that's pretty significant," said Jen Moyse, senior director, product at TripIt.
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