Destination communities like Sun Peaks often struggle to bolster their economies during the shoulder season. As a result, the growing number of digital nomads — employees who work remotely instead of in an office — has become a focus for tourism-heavy communities in an attempt to increase populations and spending.
By June 2022, 25 countries even launched special visa programs enabling remote travelers to work longer and more freely from their communities.
With its perfect work-lifestyle blend and active outdoor environment,Sun Peaks is an attractive option for would-be digital nomads. All that is needed to work remotely is highspeed Wi-Fi, a home desk and a schedule flexible enough to take advantage of snowsports and summer activities during breaks.
So, beyond national visa programs, how can communities like Sun Peaks entice and retain remote workers?
Research has shown that co-working facilities are key and many B.C. resorts are spearheading this trend. Regional examples include Revelstoke’s Mountain Co Lab, founded back in 2015, as well as 2nd Edition Coworking Fernie and Golden’s Go Lab.
Closer to home, Big White hosted a co-working event alongside the Boundary Country Regional Chambers of Commerce last August to explore the potential for opening Canada’s highest altitude co-working centre.
“We think it’s a great opportunity for folks who work in Kelowna and have a condo up at the mountain to start the weekend a day early,” said Andrew Zwicker, rural business advisor with the Boundary Country Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Come up to the mountain and work out of our co-working space on Friday, then roll right into your weekend and hop on the lifts with your bike.”
Sun Peaks-based digital nomads have a wide variety of ideas from co-working cafés to office and computer supplies, to professional training seminars and dedicated social groups.
But the common denominator is the need for a business networking hub.
Gary Boddington is an entrepreneur who relocated to Sun Peaks from Vancouver in 2019.
“I do think there are opportunities for Sun Peaks to develop a digital nomad strategy … not only to harness the talent that exists in the village … but also to attract more digital nomads who stay longer and spend more, specifically in summer and in shoulder-season months,” he said.
With just a computer and Wi-Fi connection, Boddington can make his multi-tasking empire work. Still, he said he’d appreciate networking opportunities with likeminded people such as “people who share the same journey and can assist and support each other in their growth plans, and can interact professionally and socially.”
Furthermore, Boddington would like to see targeted campaigns to attract more digital nomads to Sun Peaks, suggesting perks like discounts on products and activities.
While there is no plan as yet for a digital nomad hub, Sun Peaks’ Mayor Al Raine says there would be central space available. For example around eight to 10 work stations could be accommodated in a meeting room in the Sun Peaks Grand Hotel & Conference Centre.
“The digital nomad community has got to come together as a group to demonstrate the need,” Raine said. “Probably 90 percent of the people don’t realize they are here. They work from home, out of the public eye, so we need this group to coalesce a bit to get an idea of how many they are.”
Anyone interested in helping to form or join a Digital Nomad Group can contact [email protected] for more information.