When the pandemic sent office workers to work from home, many decided to redefine what “home” means and become digital nomads, taking advantage of the freedom that comes from being able to work anywhere with a wifi connection.
By September 2020, when the trend of “workationing” to the winter sun started to take off, Marina Fuentes Corridan spotted not only a business opportunity, but a way to transform tourism in the Canary Islands.
Having grown up in her father’s native Tenerife with a Kerry mother, Marina had the perfect combination of local knowledge, Irish hospitality, and an understanding of life as an ex-pat to set up Amarilla, which caters to digital nomads who want to live and work as part of a community, and experience the local culture in Tenerife.
“All these remote workers were pouring into the Canary Islands. At the start of the pandemic, the Facebook group for Tenerife digital nomads had about 1,500 people and had been open for five years. That group now has 15,000 people,” she said.
Marina noticed that digital nomads were eager to connect with both each other and the locals of Tenerife, and in September 2020, the idea for Amarilla was born.
For a starting price of €800 per month, guests in Amarilla can live in villas with four or five other digital nomads, to work from home in the sunshine, and with guaranteed speedy wifi.
For those who still fancy a commute or a separate workspace, a 24-hour co-working office is a five-minute stroll away.
Marina says the fact that the Canary Islands are also in the same time zone as Ireland and Britain is another huge plus for remote working.
After work, Marina and her team organise social events and activities for guests to get to know each other and explore everything Tenerife has to offer, from hiking and wine tasting, surfing, and yoga.
Over the past two years, Marina’s business has blossomed, and she has now expanded beyond individual remote workers, to offering retreats for entire company teams.
Companies with staff that haven’t met face to face in the last two years, and that are spending less on offices, now have room in the budget for working retreats in places like Amarilla, so that colleagues can get to know each other.
Amarilla was one of the first co-living spaces for digital nomads to open in 2020, and today Marina says there are nearer to 15 on the island, with more to open, as the local government is pouring investment into the sector.
Marina says this is because something has “clicked” with local officials about the potential digital nomads have to transform tourism in Tenerife, something she herself is hugely passionate about.
“Growing up in Tenerife, I understood tourism very much as one week: 'I come, I party, I leave'.
But remote working and digital nomad tourism is really special because they really actually want to get involved in the community, and they really are.
"That makes me so excited to see such a big change now in the type of tourism, and I really believe it's only going to grow more and more."