International students and young professionals overcome corona fears to pursue dreams of moving abroad

  • 65% answered they’re keen to move abroad, despite concerns with regards to the safety of their health
  • Need for information about a country’s medical system and travel options is high among people planning to move abroad
  • People not planning to move abroad list Covid-reasons not to
  • Better information about destination country could help people overcome fear

Rotterdam, September 10, 2020 - Despite Covid-19 travel fears, over 65% of international students and young professionals are still pursuing their dreams and moving abroad. HousingAnywhere’s survey into concerns with regards to moving abroad showed that respondents worry about their health and safety, but refuse to let this change their plans with regards to their destination or timing.

With universities kickstarting the 2020 academic year by moving classes online and employers offering the option to work remotely, the number of people traveling for work or school these past months is suspected to have been the lowest in over 10 years. But with in-person group sessions for students around the corner and companies slowly returning to the office, it's crucial to know what people need in order to make that move abroad.

HousingAnywhere, the housing platform for those moving abroad for the mid- to long term, set to find out what role Covid-related concerns played in the decision to move abroad or not. 110 respondents from all over the world filled in this survey. A smaller group participated in a qualitative follow-up survey (n=12). The survey was conducted during the period of June to August 2020. The focus of this survey was anyone looking to move between September and January 2021, with an international destination.

Health concerns and eager movers

Of the people surveyed, over 65% answered they were keen to move abroad. 30% of the respondents indicated that they wanted to move ‘As soon as possible’. 9.1% answered ‘Yes, but not until late 2020’, another 6.4% answered ‘Yes, but not until early 2021’. 10% indicated of the respondents indicated they had another time frame in mind, either work or university deadline related.

People looking to move abroad had serious concerns with regard to their health. Despite these concerns, none of the respondents reported having changed their plans with regard to either destination or timing of their move.

34% of the respondents with no interest to move abroad, only 3% listed non-Covid reasons for not wanting to go. For the rest of the group, health and safety were on the top of their minds. The main reason for not wanting to move abroad was that respondents felt the number of Covid-19 cases would need to drop first (30.8%). The second reason listed was their safety during traveling, as they feared they might get sick (19.2%). ‘Irresponsible behaviour and a general disregard for health and safety guidelines by others’ was the third-most mentioned reason in the survey (15.4%). Especially on the plane and in public transportation. The need for a vaccine before feeling safe to travel was the least chosen option. 'The end of the Covid-19 pandemic' ranked higher, which can be seen as either a vote of confidence for ending the pandemic (in a specific country) or a lack of faith in the swift development of a vaccine.

Top reasons to not move abroad at the moment (figure 1)

  1. The number of Covid-19 cases needs to decrease first
  2. The safety of my health during traveling needs to improve
  3. Behaviour of others with regards to Covid-19 measures needs to improve first
  4. More safety measures need to be taken to control the virus
  5. The Covid-19 pandemic needs to come to an end
  6. A vaccine needs to be developed first

HousingAnywhere Information Reasons For Not Moving Abroad Survey September 2020

Information needs of people moving abroad

When looking at the information need of people wanting to move abroad, it became clear this group had a stronger need compared to the others. This was confirmed in the follow-up conversations.

The most important topics respondents indicated they would need information about before moving are:

  1. ‘How to monitor the local Covid-19 situation’,
  2. ‘Information about the country’s medical system and how to get an appointment with a doctor’
  3. ‘How to travel back home in case I need or want to’
  4. ‘What are safe options for public transportation‘
  5. ‘What are my travel options to this country’
  6. What are trustworthy news sources in this country

HousingAnywhere Information Need People Moving Abroad Survey September 2020

Interestingly, the information needs of the group moving abroad (figure 2) were mainly focussed on current events. Such as monitoring the Covid-19 situation allowing them to make an informed decision about their personal health. Additionally, any immediate preventative actions they could take themselves. Like making an appointment with a doctor, or even travel back home. For instance, in case they start feeling uncomfortable about the situation in the country they were in. Options like ‘What are safe options for public transportation’, and ‘What are my travel options to this country’, also ranked rather high. This fits the urgency someone might have when living in a country where they want to have control over whether they stay or leave.

People with no intention to move had a similar top three, but more in an order that fits someone who has time to estimate the situation. As can be seen in figure 3, the top answers are (1) ‘Information about the country’s medical system and how to get an appointment with a doctor’, (2) ‘How to travel back home in case I need or want to’, and (3) ‘How to monitor the local Covid-19 situation’. Although only slightly different, this information order is valuable when preparing to travel.

HousingAnywhere Information Need People Not Moving Abroad Survey September 2020

What do you need from your landlord?

When asked how a landlord could support them during these times to make the move abroad easier, respondents in both groups answered similarly. This could make these services must-haves for tenants.

Top four most answers to the question of what kind of service would you need from your landlord:

  1. ‘High speed WiFi supportive of video calls’
  2. ‘Home cleaned according to Covid-19 safety standards’
  3. ‘Cleaning supplies so I can clean the place to my standards’
  4. ‘24-Hour waiting period before the next tenant moves in’

For the respondents about to move abroad, the differences in the order were again focussed on dealing with the immediate situation. For them, their preferences were:
(5) ‘Covid-19 supplies mandatory in the country, such as masks and gloves’,
(6) ‘Bikes at the property so I don’t have to travel with public transportation’, and
(7) ‘Pickup service at the airport’.

Respondents looking to move abroad listed fewer concerns in general and had fewer demands with regards to information, but mentioned to feel stronger about the concerns they listed.

HousingAnywhere What Services Do You Want From Your Landlord Moving Abroad Survey September 2020

Respondents not looking to move abroad showed somewhat interest in
(5) ‘Contactless self-check-in’,
(6) ‘Covid-19 supplies mandatory in the country, such as masks and gloves’, and
(7) ‘Cleaning services by sending a cleaner every 1-2 weeks’. Providing these services could help reduce’s people’s concerns about moving abroad.

Overall, people putting off the decision to move abroad scored higher on questions with regards to a clean home. These answers ranked higher, were often mentioned first, and were also mentioned together. This could be an indication that in addition to having concerns about traveling, this group is also staying put as they don’t know whether their new home will offer them a safe and healthy environment.

The option of having the landlord arrange groceries for the first few days to avoid the supermarket was not very popular with both groups.

HousingAnywhere What Services Do You Want From Your Landlord Not Moving Abroad Survey September 2020

Supporting students and working professionals moving abroad

Despite measures and lockdowns, the tourism industry is picking up speed again as can be seen in the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer of July. In both groups of this survey, a similar sentiment is visible. That said, for part of the surveyed group, Covid-related fears resulted in deciding to not move abroad. In the group that is moving abroad reported having strong fears with regards to the safety of their health. Additionally, a strong urge for safety via cleaning and health supplies was visible. 

Due to high enrolments in universities throughout Europe, we expect international students and young professionals to move abroad as they please. But only as soon as they feel safe enough to take on the travel, and stay in their new hometown.

With both international students and young professionals not having control over things such as a decrease in the number of Covid-19 cases and behaviour of others, this survey showed the need they have to feel safer. Now more than ever, information about safe travel options as well as the basic principles of a country’s medical system must be available if countries and cities want to continue to be able to attract the workforce of the future. On the landlord side, offering support with regards to getting a clean and safe home and other services can be a way to attract more tenants. Once tenants feel more comfortable and know their new environment will be safe, international students or working professionals are likely to leave their fears behind and follow their dreams of living a life abroad.

About the HousingAnywhere Covid Concerns When Moving Abroad survey

110 respondents participated in this survey in the period from June until August of 2020, with 60% of the respondents being male. Of the people who filled in the survey, the representation based on age range is 22-25 (37.4%), 18-21 (25.3%), 26-30 years old (20.9%), 30-34 years old (8.2%), and over 35 years of age (8.2%). With regards to nationality, the group is considerably diverse, with 11.8% Italian, 10% German, 4.5% Dutch, 3.6% British, 3.6% Spanish, 1.8% American, and 64,2% other.

About HousingAnywhere

HousingAnywhere is the world's largest rental accommodation platform for expats, young professionals, and international students boasting over 50,000 active advertisements and over 8 million users in over 60 countries. More than 150 partner universities recommend their students to use the HousingAnywhere platform. The Rotterdam-based technology start-up employs 120 people.