Does Venice need digital nomads?
Venice is such a popular tourist destination that it has become the classic example used to illustrate problems of ‘overtourism’. The Municipality has even resorted to charging day visitors a fee to enter the city in an attempt to stem the flow of tourists.
Why work from your office when you could be in Venice? (Photo - Wix)
I was therefore intrigued to see that Venice has now started promoting itself to digital nomads. Apparently, this move was sparked by the need to address the demographic decline of the historic centre of Venice. Home to around 170,000 people in the 1950s, the population has now dipped below 50,000. If tourism arguably had a big role in driving residents away, the city is now hoping that tourists might help to address the population drain.
The idea is to try and attract remote workers to replace the missing residents and inject more youth into the city. A new programme is aimed at remote workers, or ‘digital nomads’ who are able to work anywhere. If you can work remotely, why not be based in Venice? The number of remote workers has mushroomed since the pandemic, with a growing cohort of workers seemingly reluctant to return to the office. Figures from Eurostat suggest that Netherlands is leading this trend, with almost three quarters of the labour force working remotely at least part of the time, compared with 28% before the pandemic.
Interestingly, a Guardian article covering the growth of digital nomads in Venice featured Alan Bruton, a 59 year old American professor of architecture. This is hardly the typical profile for a digital nomad, and far from the type of youthful candidate the programme is designed to attract. The big demographic gap for Venice is in the 25-35 year age group, and this is not the first programme aimed at making the population more youthful. For example, the university was persuaded to move into the historic centre to bring in students and kick-start associated cultural and creative activities.
If you want to move to Venice to become a ‘temporary citizen’, you can visit the Venywhere platform, which provides help with accommodation, working space, visas, taxes and bank accounts for a ‘soft landing’ for digital nomads and other location independent workers. The process seems relatively simple:
"you simply need to prove you can work remotely and be willing to live in Venice for at least three months. In return for a small one-off fee, the project team provides services such as assistance with finding an apartment and dealing with visa requirements as well as organising events to help the newcomers integrate."
With remote working and digital nomadism set to grow in the next few years, Venice should have a large pool from which to recruit new temporary citizens. Once they arrive, however, will they be able to resist the tourist pressure any better than the permanent residents who are voting with their feet and leaving the city in droves?