Lagos Digital Nomads – building a bridge between local businesses and remote workers
The Algarve town of Lagos is well known as a seaside destination that welcomes a vast variety of tourists all-year-round and it is fast becoming known as the latest hot spot for digital nomads in Portugal. Chris Graeme reports.
Last year, the prestigious magazine Forbes praised Portugal’s Algarve region as the “perfect place to retire” but also to relocate because of a series of unique factors: all-year-round sun, the third safest place to live in the world, excellent infrastructure (roads and internet), a low-cost, high-quality health service, golden beaches and lovely golf resorts, fabulous food, and friendly locals who speak English.
This year, travel search engine Momomdo.pt voted Portugal the best country in the world to work remotely, after analysing 111 countries and basing its ranking table on 22 factors, in six categories: travel costs and accessibility; local prices; heath and security; conditions for digital nomads; social life; and climate.
Lagos, near Faro, famous for its beautiful beaches, 300+ days of sunshine per year, and its welcoming atmosphere is increasingly becoming one of the main destinations for remote workers or Digital Nomads while visiting or living temporarily in Portugal.
Entrepreneur, Joana Glória, a tireless promoter of the Algarve as an ideal destination for digital nomads and who believes the Algarve offers the best lifestyle and is the best destination hub for remote workers, founded Lagos Digital Nomads two years ago, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Joana recently spoke about the Digital Nomad Community in Lagos at both Web Summit in interviews with SIC TV and Radio Renascença in November and at the Irish-Portuguese Business Network Tourism Conference in Lisbon in September.
Joana says that although digital nomads have been around in Portugal for years, during lockdown people thought about and reprioritised their lives, with many opting to become digital nomads.
Portugal, because of its package of characteristics, has consequently enjoyed an uptick in these live in and work from anywhere professionals.
“Portugal has a huge digital nomad community. There is one in Madeira, Porto, Lisbon, and Lagos” says Joana who has created an online network and organises events where digital nomads can meet others”.
“We’d been organising theme dinners and talks and local businesses realised there were more visitors in town and they could make money in the winter and didn’t have to close”.
Joana realised she had an opportunity as an entrepreneur and set up Lagos Digital Nomads to act as a bridge between local businesses and the digital nomads community.
The website lagosdigitalnomads.com is a platform where digital nomads find all the information they need in preparation for moving to Lagos and to make the most of their time in the town by finding out about evens, entertainment activities, restaurants, and other local services.
“When I launched the website in February 2022 I started with just a few advertisers, mostly restaurants and bars, wellness and entertainment activity organisers, but then law firms, estate agents, accountants and other businesses contacted me”, she told the IPBN Tourism Conference.
Since then, the startup has taken off with Joana organising networking events, workshops and presentations with the local businesses attending the events.
“Because digital nomads bring so much knowledge and experience from around the world, this has provided an amazing opportunity to innovate and develop local businesses in the Algarve”.
At this year’s Web Summit, Mio Nguyen, who is part of the Digital Nomad Community in Lagos, told SIV TV that being a digital nomad is about “freedom”, the freedom to be able to work from any part of the world.
The German technology company she works for does not need her to work from an office or even be in Germany, she can work from home, but prefers to travel and comes to Portugal every year.
“During the week I have my normal schedule, calls with clients and the team, but to be by the sea with all this great food and surroundings is just amazing”, she says where she spends three months in the Algarve.
“Some people stay two or three months, which is the norm, the ‘Slow Nomads’ who stay between six and nine months, because they want a different experience with more contact with the people and culture, and then there are a fair number of nomads that are now buying or plan to buy homes in the region,” said Joana Glória in a TV interview at the Web Summit.
Giving back to the community
Working and living in Portugal for digital nomads has just got easier since the Portuguese government announced its D7 Digital Nomad Visa at which will allow nomads to stay, settle and work for a certain time in Portugal.
To be eligible for the D7, for example, remote workers just need to prove a monthly income that is four times the amount of the current minimum income in Portugal, and provide a work contract or proof that they are self-employed. The current minimum monthly income in Portugal is €705 but is increasing to €750 in 2023.
But concerns have been voiced that the new visa, created to boost the Portuguese economy (particularly important in the Algarve which relies on tourism which tends to die off in the winter months after the season is over) will, like the Golden Visa, inflate demand and drive up house prices in a market lacking supply, pricing locals out.
These concerns have been deflected by Portugal’s Secretary of State for Tourism, Rita Marques. “The idea of the new D7 Visa is not just to attract nomads to the Algarve, Lisbon and Porto, but to get them to “proliferate” all over the country”.
And the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa says the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages because of the benefits of attracting digitally literate young people who are clearly the future for Portugal.
Joana points out that in her experience there is a willingness in the digital nomad community to give back what they have been given. “There are people who do try and integrate with the local community culture, get to know places, and better understand how people live”.
“Some end up doing volunteer work with children or the elderly, others who go and pick up rubbish left on the beaches. They realise that since they have come to Portugal they have been given a lot, but they also like to give back to the local community”, she adds.
At Web Summit, the matter was also broached by the Portuguese Minister of the Economy and former Lisbon Mayor, Fernando Medina who said a balance needed to be struck in terms of public perception so that people don’t think the authorities are favouring overseas residents, temporary or otherwise, over the locals.
That said, not all digital nomads who come to Portugal in search of a freer lifestyle and house do so with pockets filled to overflowing.
“We really need affordable housing and more apartments built in the centre of Lisbon so that we can work together with people remotely working here and people who are working every day in the services industry ”, says Becky Gillespie, a digital nomad who has lived in Japan, Mexico, and who now plans to be a resident in Portugal.