Dubrovnik Mayor Mato Frankovic has been very active promoting his city as a digital nomad destination. TCN catches up with him ahead of the Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads conference which starts tomorrow.
One of the most interesting initiatives I have been involved with this year has been the push to develop Croatia as a destination for digital nomads. With more and more people working in the same office globally (the Internet), many of whom who are looking for lifestyle rather than living in the same village, and with Croatia the lifestyle capital of Europe, the potential to match up the two opens up some rather exciting new options for Croatian tourism.
The imminent arrival of a digital nomad visa for Croatia (only the 5th in the world, and the second after Estonia) will make Croatia an even more viable option, and a debt of gratitude is owed to Dutch entrepreneur Jan de Jong for his successful campaign which resulted in Prime Minister Plenkovic tweeting his plan to introduce the visa just 44 days after receiving an open letter on Linked in from de Jong.
Other officials have been very quick to react to the new opportunity as well, among them Dubrovnik Mayor, with whom I met in late July with a digital nomad concept for Dubrovnik.
Having had many meetings with public officials over the years in Croatia, I was not quite prepared for what happened next. Not only did the mayor grasp the essence of the opportunity, but he agreed in principle to support the initiative during the meeting, and the wheels were set in motion the very next day.
The results of that meeting will be twofold – the conference starting tomorrow as part of European Freelancer Week, and an international competition for digital nomads to be guests of Dubrovnik next Spring.
Firstly, a quick word on the 2020 tourist season, which was the most challenging in living memory. As a flight destination and with no cruise ships, Dubrovnik suffered more than most. Can you give us a little insight into how it was, as well as any positives?
The start of the tourist season coincided with the ending of lockdown, so June and July weren’t bad. We coped well with COVID-19. For 60 days we didn’t have any cases of infection, and we had very good announcements for September and October. With the opening, we accepted the risk that more people could be infected, and when the first indications appeared that the UK would put us on the red list, I wrote to Prime Minister Johnson to look at the data by regions and counties. But after four weeks, we ended up on the red list even though we were doing everything in our power. The numbers of those infected were crucial.
From undertourism to overtourism. The change in tourism from last year to this could not have been starker. How have the events of 2020 shaped your thinking regarding developing tourism in Dubrovnik in the future?
At the beginning of my mandate, I was faced with the challenge of an excessive number of guests, and at the end of my mandate, we are facing a shortage of guests. I see this whole situation as an opportunity for a fresh, clean start. I believe that we will get out of this story quickly and successfully, but also wiser for the future. I am optimistic and I think we can come back relatively quickly, this time with some new rules and thinking about sustainable tourism. I also believe the vaccine will be available in the first quarter of the next year, which will ultimately allow people to travel more easily and safely.
One of the new opportunities for tourism in Croatia is catering to the remote worker industry. Prime Minister Plenkovic has committed to introducing a digital nomad visa for Croatia which should be in place in early 2021. What are your thoughts on that, and what could this mean for Dubrovnik?
We fully support this initiative and see it as one of the directions for the future development of tourism in Dubrovnik. We are the first city in Croatia to turn to the digital nomad market. After the Prime Minister announced an easier stay for digital nomads and special visas for them in Croatia, Dubrovnik is organizing a conference on this topic. By signing an agreement with Hrvatski Telekom (Croatian Telecom) and the Ministry of Regional Development, we are bringing a much faster Internet network to Dubrovnik, which will cover a wider area, thus enabling what is very important for digital nomads, and that is fast Internet. Everything else is already here.
After this event in October, the City and tourist board of Dubrovnik have announced a digital nomad project partnership with TCN and Saltwater for another event next April. Can you tell our readers more about that?
This event in October will be some kind of an introduction to the whole story with digital nomads, for Dubrovnik and digital nomads to get to know each other. Next year we will go a step further. To popularize Dubrovnik as a destination for digital nomads, it is planned to organize an international competition in April. Dubrovnik would therefore host 10 winners as special guests of the city who would do their work from Dubrovnik and actively participate in shaping and developing strategies for developing these types of business.
What advice do you have for local Dubrovnik residents who are interested to know more about this digital nomad opportunity and perhaps reorientate their business/accommodation rentals in that direction?
All those who work in tourism are aware and must be aware that some things will change in the future. When it comes to digital nomads, it is important to offer better long-term rental opportunities, and the City is working to promote and provide other infrastructural conditions, such as high-speed Internet. This is, of course, an opportunity for everyone, not just for those dealing with accommodations. There are also caterers, as well as everyone else. Considering that these are the people who will stay here for longer, so they will need hairdressing services, health services, and maybe babysitting services if they are with their families, etc.
And finally, a message from Dubrovnik for any digital nomads considering moving temporarily to Croatia. Why Dubrovnik, and what are the key things you can offer digital nomads should they choose your city?
Digital nomads are very welcome in Dubrovnik. Here they have everything for a good quality of life, from a good climate and pleasant living space to the people of Dubrovnik who have always been hospitable to their guests. They also have excellent working conditions here, and the City of Dubrovnik is constantly working to improve the quality of life and stay in this city.