All nomadic roads lead to Dubrovnik, and you are embarking on your third event in the Pearl of the Adriatic, after Croatia’s first-ever nomad conference in October 2020, and the award-winning Dubrovnik Nomads-in-Residence program. Before we get to the event, why Dubrovnik (which was not a perceived nomad destination), and why do you keep coming back?
There’s an Instagram video by Goran Visnjic which shows exactly why I keep coming back – I even drive around twice, for double the thrill.
Like everything, the people. It’s so easy to work with the Tourist Board and City; this can be rare in Croatia. Also – the vision to shift from over-tourism. I freely admit I avoided the city in the peak of summer, and this is part of multiple steps to address this for future generations. I’m really fortunate that I can say I played a small part in the reinvention story of such an iconic destination, as it builds in sustainable measures in tourism. Also, see video above.
Defining tangible results in a sector where little data is collected (nobody registers as a digital nomad) are hard to quantify. That there has been a perception change about Dubrovnik is evident when comparing British media stories from 2017 (The Times using Dubrovnik as a poster child for overtourism v. The Guardian in 2021 with a Dubrovnik leading image for a feature on digital nomad visas). How else do you quantify progress?
In the original pitch to the city, there was a quote from a 2017 NomadList user saying “nice place to visit, but only for a few days” with very little mention of Dubrovnik – this review was in 2020. Fast forward to 5 years now, and for example, a Dubrovnik Digital Nomads Dubrovnik Facebook group I started nears 700 members. And we know the average number of monthly digital nomads in Dubrovnik, according to Nomad List, is several hundred – and all the graphs for Croatia have a steep upward trajectory. Following this, the way to see the rise will be in long-stay occupancy and related businesses remaining open.
Your last event in the city a year ago, Dubrovnik Nomads-in-Residence, has already picked up a couple of international awards. Tell us a little about the impact that it has had on the city’s thinking and strategy.
The Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence program really highlighted the areas to focus on, and the City and Tourist Board are implementing these with ‘quick wins’ and longer-term goals. The workation and conference were part of those recommendations – the momentum is strong, and it’s a strategic approach.
And so to 2022. Saltwater Nomads is teaming up once again with Dubrovnik for another innovative conference called Work. Place. Culture. Tell us about the conference and what it is trying to achieve.
Following the work from home shift arising from global lockdowns, the greatest shift right now is the return to the office for millions of people – so, what does something like hybrid look like? If you don’t want to go to a physical office again – how do you champion this change internally, or as it has been popularly coined, do you join ‘The Great Resignation’? This conference brings this thinking – and leaders in their field with very close insights to share this information. It also allows destinations to open up their doors to raise awareness to the ready-to-work-from-anywhere crowd, while also learning about expectations and shaping their thinking as they craft a revamped offer- with so many countries now offering a digital nomad visa, having a digital nomad offer for tourism is going to be part of the furniture. As the name implies, it brings together work and place – with aspects of culture for both.
Who is it aimed at, and why should they come?
Those in the HR or remote space. Especially anyone interested in the latest data and trends. It’s a very interactive program design, including netwalking on the Old Town walls as part of the program, and several outdoor sessions – from nature park islands to medieval replica sailing ships. Also, any digital nomads in Croatia who ultimately want to visit Dubrovnik – this is a great opportunity to explore the city in great company, and also – anyone considering a workation.
The speakers list is being finalised, but can you give us a teaser?
We’ve now started sharing who is joining us, and we have some real ‘heavyweights’. Aaron McEwan, who was recently interviewed by TCN, will cover Radical Flexibility. We have 3 of LinkedIn’s Top 10 voices in Remote Work coming in person. Plus digital nomads and some exciting stories from destinations, which we’ll also share in coming weeks.
As one of the pioneers of the cowork revolution in Croatia, co-organiser of the Dubrovnik events, Zagreb Digital Nomad Week, and co-founder of the Digital Nomad Association Croatia, you seem to be at the heart of many of the remote work initiatives driving Croatia forward. How do you see progress, and what are the key things missing which would help accelerate Croatia’s path to become a major player in this exciting sector in the future?
Our DNA Croatia Reflection Day was a really positive way to start the year, to look back but also forward – and the uptake from all regions of Croatia is a sign of momentum and strength.
I would say budget – financial investment, is missing. When you look at places like Lisbon paying Web Summit $10million a year, per year, for a decade, you realise just how different a playing field we’re on. What we’ve done is remarkable, and the destinations are attractive – there’s not much effort needed to convince people to come- but I can only imagine what could be achieved, and also we know the numbers and average spend of nomads, so there is a case to increase investment in this area. Read: public support is missing in most places. Hopefully, this changes.
Early Bird tickets are available until today at midnight and can be booked via the official website.
You can download the full programme of the Work.Place.Culture Conference in Dubrovnik here.
Work. Place. Culture. is a collaboration between the City of Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik Tourist Board, Saltwater Nomads and TCN, with support from the Digital Nomad Association Croatia and Dubrovacka Bastina. Zagreb Digital Nomad Week is a partnership between Zagreb Tourist Board, Saltwater Nomads, and TCN.
For more news and features on digital nomads in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section.