Chiang Mai University Digital Nomad Impact Study

Currently there is a research initiative being undertaken at Chiang Mai University focusing on the growth of Chiang Mai as the world’s largest Digital Nomad Hub and its implications for the tourism sector.



It has been estimated that by 2035, there may be as many as 1 billion Digital Nomads globally. At present, Chiang Mai, Thailand is considered to be the largest concentration of Digital Nomads in the world.


The mission of the Supply Chain Economics Research Centre (SCERC) at Chiang Mai University is to conduct high impact research on supply chains using rigorous economics methods focusing on theoretical work (e.g., New Institutional Economics and Supply Chain Management), analytical methods (e.g., Game Theory) and empirical studies (e.g., Econometrics and Multivariate statistics). The substantive area of expertise at SCERC has been the tourism sector and the present research proposes to contribute to this research.


Within the broader range of tourist typologies, there has recently emerged a new, distinct and rapidly growing demographic – Digital Nomads. The term Digital Nomad refers to a person who leverages internet technology to work while traveling. Most Digital Nomads are business owners or freelance contractors, with a few “satellite employees” who are able to fit the requirements. Digital Nomads tend to stay for longer periods in one place than regular tourists and they exhibit a range of consumer purchasing behaviors that are distinct from more traditional tourists. As such, the economic impact from this cohort is worthy of serious academic inquiry.


With a focus on the Chiang Mai municipal region as the primary, geographic locus of study, this research will investigate [1] the many motivations that spur Digital Nomads to pursue this life/work practice, [2] the myriad factors that draw them to Chiang Mai, [3] the typical spending habits of Digital Nomads vis-a-vis those of the broader tourist population (including lodging, transport, food, extracurriculars, etc.), [4] alternative estimates for projected revenue accruing from Digital Nomads in coming years based upon estimated numbers as well as different policy considerations, [5] the social, political and economic implications this has for other potential Digital Nomad Hubs, and, along these lines [6] a possible set of best practices for the sustainable growth of Digital Nomad Hubs globally.


The proposed research will gather pertinent data concerning the outgrowth of Chiang Mai as a Digital Nomad Hub within the broader context of the Tourism Industry more generally and with specific focus on local and regional impact. To this end, appropriate survey and interview data will be collected from and a literature review will be conducted. From this, a Digital Nomad Profile Matrix with various typologies will be established. Comparative data will be collected from alternate Digital Nomad Hubs. Key regional stakeholders will be interviewed. Future revenue projections will be estimated based upon various alternative policy scenarios. Finally, a set of policies and practices will be recommended.


This research will be conducted over a 4 to 6-month period throughout 2016 and 2017.

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