For more than a year, the travel and hospitality sector has been absolutely wrecked by the Covid-19 pandemic. With many countries’ borders effectively closed, international travel has been especially hard hit. According to the UN World Tourism Organization, in 2020 international tourist arrivals were down 79% compared to 2019. Some 120 million tourism jobs have been put at risk, with the economic damage likely to exceed $1 trillion in 2020 alone. But one niche of the industry has, despite it all, not only held strong but seems poised for a major post-pandemic comeback: the network of Instagram-centric coliving/coworking brands that cater to the “digital nomad” set.

With Europe largely off limits to North American travelers, places like Mexico and Costa Rica, with less-strict entry requirements, are where you’re most likely to see Americans Insta-bragging from.

While some people spent the past year curled up in an overpriced apartment, a Covid-flouting contingent of “location-independent professionals” has been riding out the pandemic on the beach or poolside in countries like Mexico, Costa Rica, Thailand, and Indonesia, enjoying boho-chic accommodations, blazing-fast internet, happy hours with a “pod” of fellow global citizens, and blissful workdays watching palm-tree shadows dance across their laptop screens. All for about $20 a night.

“With fewer people and social distancing, we can’t do all the events we like. But still people are still living the lifestyle.”

And Outsite isn’t the only one cashing in on the new generation of digital nomads. The similarly-named Outpost, also founded in 2016, offers boutique hotel-style accommodations with pools, onsite cafes, airy shared workspaces, and private offices in three Bali locations. That includes a jungly outpost just outside of Ubud, which launched in January 2020, right around the time Indonesia was reporting its first Covid cases. (It recently closed an outpost in Cambodia.) Except for a three-month window when you could get visas for “social reasons,” Bali has been effectively locked down since last March. But Outpost’s CEO and co-founder, David Abraham, says that many of the freewheeling foreigners who were already in the country, including “an inordinate number of Russians,” opted to ride it out in paradise instead of rushing back to safety (and the likelihood of long-term confinement) in their home countries when Covid hit.

The courtyard at Outpost’s location in Ubud Penestanan, Bali. (Credit: Outpost)

As vaccinations pick up and active cases tick down in North America and Europe, these new hospitality brands are betting on — and preparing for — a surge of visitors.

Many countries in Southeast Asia are much safer — once you get in. Thailand enforces a strict 14-day quarantine for foreign travelers (soon to go down to 10 days), and with a population of nearly 70 million people has recorded just 28,000 cases and 92 deaths from Covid-19. “People who decided to stay in Thailand or Vietnam have been very fortunate,” says Outpost’s Abraham. “Bangkok is relatively normal. People are very cautious, but I was at a conference the other day with 300 people. And in Singapore they also seem to do a better job, just following what people say to do—wear a mask.”