Athens is a city with expensive internet and high levels of air pollution that struggles to draw digital nomads from around the world, global surveys show, indicating the challenges faced by the Greek government in its push make the capital popular with foreign professionals in the digital era.
With remote working becoming the norm these days, competition between countries to attract digital workers is rising. This is a fast emerging lucrative market that offers many benefits to local economies as the future of tourism remains uncertain.
In Greece, the issue of attracting workers with a remote job was raised last week by Alexis Patelis, economic adviser to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. He announced announced a 50% tax cut for individuals - salaried and self-employed - who had gone abroad due to the financial crisis and then return to work in Greece.
Although the measure is mainly aimed at tackling the country’s brain drain, it also aims at strengthening Greece's position as a destination for digital nomads.
“The coronavirus pandemic has also shown that it is possible in many cases for one to choose where to live and work thanks to technology. We can have digital migrants,” he told Reuters.
Although tax always play a big role in making a country more competitive, there are a series of other factors that play a role in whether digital workers will set up in a particular area – issues that other countries in the wider region have cottoned on to.
Bulgaria, Turkey and Portugal are among the most popular destinations, providing special entry visas, fast and cheap internet and large communities of expats, while Greece is still low on the radar.
In a ranking of 68 countries prepared by Internations.org evaluating the quality of digital life, Greece comes in at 52nd position. In another ranking of 1,344 cities put together by nomadlist.com - that examines the cost of living, the Internet, security and entertainment - Athens is in position numer 95.
It awarded the Greek city with top marks on entertainment and quality of life, but gave a bad review when it came to air pollution.
The founders of the site www.digital-nomad-couple.com, Alessia and Eddy, who worked in Athens recently for two months, say that they would not do it again, despite the low cost of living and friendly people.
“There are no places in the city really good for outdoor sports, meditation or yoga: let's say that parks in Athens are not really used for these purposes,” they write, adding that “the price and the quality of the internet is not the best in Greece. We were using SkyRoam to have internet, both at home and outside, or our 4G, but it ended up being pretty expensive. So, if an excellent connection is indispensable for you, maybe Greece is not the destination for you."