Interview with Rafael Koudounis of Digital Mobilities Conference

Digital mobilities conference

Greece is hosting its first Digital Mobilities Conference: Nomads & Remote Workers on November 8th and 9th. The conference aims to inform the local business community about digital nomadism.

We interviewed Rafael Koudounis, president of the Digital Nomads Observatory, who shared with us more about the event. 

1. Could you introduce yourself and tell us more about your role as the president of the Digital Nomads Observatory in Greece?

I’m Rafael Koudounis. I’m the president of the Digital Nomads Observatory – a nonprofit organization. 

We started the Digital Nomads Observatory as something for our free time because we all have other jobs. And we wanted to promote the digital nomad’s lifestyle as one of the diamonds of the future. We believe that globalization will be faster here, will happen faster than many people think. And the digital nomad is the tip of the iceberg when you speak about globalization. There is a whole background in thought, and this background is what we want to analyze in the Digital Mobilities Conference.

2. And the Digital Nomads Observatory was created before the pandemic or because of the pandemic?

The observatory started officially in March of 2020, during the first wave of the pandemic. From March till December, we made it official, and we are now a registered nonprofit organization. And the first event we are launching is the Digital Mobilities Conference.

3. Could you tell us more about the Digital Mobilities Conference? Who is your main target audience?

The Digital Mobilities Conference is not here to attract digital nomads as people to attend it. You will probably ask, why not? The Greek society is not ready yet to accommodate digital nomads in the way we want. We firstly want to attract people from local and different sections of Greece to educate them about the digital nomads, so they can do certain things for the destination to accommodate digital nomads.

We are not yet in the step as Greece. We are not ready to go out in the world and say, “Hey, this is the nomad’s camp.” We are prepared only 50% to receive digital nomads. That’s because of the hard work, and by hard work, I mean the laws. The Greek Parliament already voted laws about digital nomads, and they are official. 

And we also have the support of the Greek state, the Greek central state, the government for our conference. And there will be people from different ministries to explain to their attendees the laws and how they can adapt their business, their destinations, their organizations to accommodate and live with digital nomads.

We will have some special positions for international companies to attend the event. But in general, we designed it and programmed it to be informative for the local people of Greece to get used to digital nomadism, how can we adopt it, how can we welcome those people, what are their needs, how we can do can cope without them.

4. How did this idea of making an event for locals to know more about digital nomads came up? 

Our primary purpose of the observatory is to inform people, to inform the local stakeholders in Greece. By saying stakeholders, I mean business owners, local governments, municipalities, everything regarding decision-making. In the winter, we made five or six different small events, 45 minutes each, for informing local communities. It was held on the internet, and it was in four or five different cities of Greece. We made the event in collaboration with the local chambers of commerce.

Afterward, we said that we had to do something bigger. If we want to attract digital nomads in Greece, we have to make something, an event, regarding digital nomads, to attract publicity and global publicity. And we also want to inform, again, those stakeholders, but now we want to have the government, the people of the government, attend the event so we can share with them the vision of the observatory.

And we started to organize this event. We didn’t accept sponsorships as traditional sponsorship packages, such as paying some money and getting advertised. We force all those businesses to buy tickets, and we tell them that, for example, “If you buy 10 tickets, you can be an official partner,” or, “You will be advertised as an official partner.”

And what we are going to talk about is how the digital nomads are connected with globalization and how digital nomads are the drivers of the new humanity, the new human race, something like this. It’s a very simple thought, but deep in time, because it’s going to happen after a hundred years. We are not going to live then.

Imagine that there are some predictions that say that in 2035, there will be one billion nomads and remote workers globally. In our studies, we know that the digital nomads want communities. They want communities of digital nomads to meet, make friends, and the relationships. Imagine one billion people, other from Africa, other from Asia, other from Europe, other from Australia, other from America, to be together and build relationships.

5. Did the pandemic change the perceptions of remote workers in Greece? 

Greece, by default, is a very good destination for holidays. It’s one of the best destinations probably in the whole world. So from 1956, since tourism started to grow in Greece, there were people who stayed here in the wintertime and wrote the book or had their paintings done. They were mostly artists.

Especially Rhodes has a very rich past regarding this kind of people, people that came to Rhodes in the summertime to see the beautiful sand, the beaches, to have the nightlife, and they stayed during winter to do some project of their own. Many books, TV series, paintings, and many of those started up created the mind of one person, the mind’s creation, being created in Rhodes because of this. They came as tourists and stayed as locals.

My personal story, my personal belief is that they were the first nomads. They were not digital nomads, but they were the first nomads. We have people coming in today. We had many people before the pandemic who came as tourists stayed as locals. I even have coworkers who came as tourists, and 15 years later, decided to buy a house here in Rhodes. And now they work from here, but their company’s in Holland or their company’s in the UK. So it was here even before the pandemic.

The digital nomads now, it also was here, but not so intense. We believe now that it can be intensified. And especially for Greece and its islands, we think they are the perfect destinations, especially for Europeans, because a European does not need any digital nomads’ laws to visit.

6. What would you say are the main benefits of Greece as a destination for digital nomads? 

The main advantage of anything, even if we speak about business, even we speak about countries, must be the people always. And always, in all the history, in all the ages, the main advantage of Greece as a country is its people. It’s the locals that very easily you can make friends, very easily you can find people to help you with a particular problem you may have. Small neighborhoods still exist. Small villages still exist.

All those could give a framework for peace of mind. You are away from noises. You are away from all these parts of the life of a big city. 

7. If you could broadcast one message to digital nomads around the world, what would that message be?

You are the drivers of the new humanity.

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