Work.Place.Culture. Conference: TCN Interviews Dubrovnik Mayor Mato Franković

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Back in July 2020, the city and tourist board of Dubrovnik agreed to a proposal from Saltwater Nomads and Total Croatia News to put it on the map for digital nomads. Following Croatia’s first Digital Nomads conference in October 2020, the city was presented with a program for 2021 that would help attract digital nomads to visit, and stay, in the city. Tanja Polegubic, the founder of Saltwater, proposed a unique event – a digital nomad in residence program. A competition to select 10 nomads from around the world, who would then live in Dubrovnik for a month and collaborate on a plan to make the city more attractive to the digital nomad community. The program was promoted through Total Croatia News and drew global interest. The event came to life in April 2021 with the digital nomads in residence arriving in the city. Over four weeks, the Saltwater program team facilitated a series of workshops involving the visiting nomads, the city, the tourist board, and the local community.


The Digital Nomads-in-Residence program confirmed Dubrovnik as a destination that seeks to position itself beyond conventional tourism during the summer months, but also as a city that can offer more throughout the year and attract different types of visitors. (Photo: Mario Romulić)

This year, and to continue to show that Dubrovnik is on the way to being a hotspot for digital nomads, Saltwater Nomads, the City of Dubrovnik, the Dubrovnik Tourist Board, the Digital Nomads Association Croatia (DNA Croatia), the Croatian National Tourist Board and Total Croatia News will hold the first Work.Place.Culture. conference from May 5 to 7 in Dubrovnik. Work.Place.Culture is the conference which brings work from anywhere to absolutely everywhere. Join remote professionals and destinations from around the world as they inspire a global workforce that has greater location flexibility than ever before, and the destinations which are reinventing to support them through policy, infrastructure, and community.


Additionally, as part of the Work.Place.Culture Conference, the Dubrovnik Tourist Board is launching its official workation program pilot, in conjunction with Saltwater and Sun Gardens Dubrovnik. The winning team will enjoy a 1-week stay (between 1 and 9 May 2022) at the 5 Star Sun Gardens Dubrovnik and have the chance to partake in a specialty workshop – strategy planning, team building, wellbeing, and leadership are among the options available. The all-star team will also present at the Work. Place. Culture. Conference on 5-7 May 2022. Today is the last day to participate. Click HERE to apply.

In recent days, Total Croatia News has presented some of the top panelists who will be in Dubrovnik to share their rich wisdom and knowledge about remote work, in order to present not only the advantages of betting on Dubrovnik as a destination for nomads but also to offer a guide to those interested towards a balanced nomadic lifestyle.

On this occasion, we spoke with the Mayor of Dubrovnik, Mato Franković. Nowhere suffered more in Croatian tourism in 2020 than its most famous destination – Dubrovnik. Located in the far south of the country, it is heavily reliant on flight and cruise ship tourism for the bulk of its tourism business. Unlike more northern destinations in Croatia which were more accessible by car, Dubrovnik was forced to rethink its tourism strategy to deal with the current pandemic realities.


Zrinka Raguz, Mato Franković, and Jelka Tepsić from the City of Dubrovnik administration. (Photo: Grgo Jelavic/PIXSELL)

Rather than sit back and hope for the best, Dubrovnik Mayor Mato Franković took the initiative to position the Pearl of the Adriatic as a prime destination in the emerging digital nomad tourism opportunity. Dubrovnik hosted Croatia’s first-ever digital nomad conference in October 2020, Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads, an event organized by Saltwater Nomads with support from TCN, and then the Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence program between April and May 2021.

Mayor Franković shared with us his thoughts on the Work.Place.Culture conference, Dubrovnik as a digital nomad-friendly destination, the city’s initiatives to make Dubrovnik a year-round destination, the 2022 season, and more.

It is almost two years since we met in your office to discuss a new opportunity for Dubrovnik – digital nomad tourism. A lot has happened in your city in this field since then. Tell us about that from your perspective?

Back in October 2020, the City of Dubrovnik hosted the first Croatian conference for digital nomads “Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads”. In April and May 2021, the program “Dubrovnik Digital Nomads in Residence” followed, the first of its kind in the world, as part of which Dubrovnik hosted ten digital nomads from different parts of the world for a month, and whose experience helped create the future strategies for this type of tourism, creating a better environment for future nomads who will choose Dubrovnik as their place of work.

Since last year, we have also been actively working on animating the stakeholders of the tourism sector to get involved in projects related to digital nomads, to create a register of offers intended for this specific group of visitors. I think we can conclude that we are on the right track to affirming Dubrovnik as a Digital Nomad Friendly destination.

Last year’s Dubrovnik Nomads-in-Residence program was the first of its kind in the world, and it offered a completely different perspective and strategy. What were your main takeaways?

During their one-month stay in Dubrovnik, digital nomads got involved in the life of the community, and based on personal experiences through workshops they made proposals and suggestions on what they wanted from the destination where they live and work, and also gave recommendations for creating a better environment for this form of tourism.

This was an excellent experience because they were able to see all the advantages and disadvantages in a specific place and, based on their own experience, give recommendations for improving the living conditions of digital nomads in Dubrovnik. The proposals referred to the need for organized accommodation for longer stays, organized space for coworking, coliving, and greater involvement in community life. They also expressed the opinion that visitors should be directed to visit other sights outside the historic center, which was also extremely interesting for them.

Dubrovnik seems to be keen to build on these early initiatives, and you have implemented – and are implementing – a range of initiatives to better position your city on the remote work map. Can you give us an overview of initiatives in progress?

Yes, several initiatives are underway. We have already mentioned that we are working on animating the tourism sector to be involved in projects related to digital nomads – from private accommodation to restaurants and shops, transportation, based on which we create a register of offers for digital nomads. The register is constantly updated.

Very soon, a new website called will be promoted, as well as accompanying content and materials, which proves that our city is a leader in creating content to attract and improve the quality of digital nomads. The Digital Nomad Check Point is planned at the TIC Pile of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board, where digital nomads would be able to purchase a special Digital Nomad Card through registration, which includes a number of benefits and all the information that can make it easier for them to find and organize a longer stay in Dubrovnik.

In the past period, we have constantly had projects and programs intended for digital nomads and we are trying to work in this direction throughout the whole year.

Also in early May, the second conference for digital nomads called “Work.Place.Culture” will follow.


(Photo: Grgo Jelavic/PIXSELL)

And so to Dubrovnik 2022, and the new conference – Work. Place. Culture. which takes place from May 5-7. Tell us a little about that, and who the conference is aimed at?

It is a conference that will bring together about 100 participants from around the world, with distinguished lecturers and workshop leaders, aimed at telecommuting professionals and decision-makers, destinations, companies, and service providers in the sector.

The goal is to strengthen the position of Dubrovnik as a Digital Nomad Friendly destination and a direct promotional effect for the city of Dubrovnik and the whole of Croatia to attract more and more people working remotely and looking for new destinations to live and work.

In addition to a digital nomad focus, extending to matters related to all remote professionals means Dubrovnik can continue to gain global media attention as it addresses sustainable tourism and how it relates to issues relevant to multiple industries and policy-setters, globally.

The public-private partnership has been excellent in Dubrovnik, and the city is certainly among the most cited now as a nomad destination. Where do you see Dubrovnik in 5 years in the remote work story?

We see Dubrovnik as an established destination for the year-round stay of digital nomads, especially in that part of the year that is not the peak of the season, and when Dubrovnik really has a lot to offer, from cultural to many other events. We certainly consider this type of tourism to be an important segment in the further development of sustainable tourism and we believe that by persistent work in this direction we will succeed in achieving the set goal.

The transition from over-tourism to sustainable tourism is a long journey, but one on which you have embarked. What other initiatives are in place to encourage that trend?

There are a number of initiatives through our Respect the City project.

Determined to turn Dubrovnik into a leader in sustainable tourism in the Mediterranean area, in 2017 the City of Dubrovnik started to develop the strategic project Respect the City. We began tackling the difficult challenge before us through different measures of relieving traffic congestion and implementing smart city solutions. In a relatively short period of time, we began managing our destination, and are now heading toward sustainable tourism, to the great satisfaction of visitors and citizens alike.

Since a significant portion of problems with over-tourism is related to cruise ships and daily visitors, City reached out to CLIA, the world’s largest cruise industry trade association. In cooperation and in common interest City managed to make adjustments in the short term and started to work toward a long-term solution which basically means meticulous planning of cruise arrivals/departures daily, weekly, and annually.


(Photo: Grgo Jelavic/PIXSELL)

Dubrovnik integrated smart city solutions: a web platform predicting the number of visitors in the Old Town on a given day, smart parking, a Dubrovnik Card application for visitors, web cameras on city roads, car-sharing project.

The action plan includes also mid and long-term measures, some of the mid-term are sustainable urban mobility plans and urban development studies, Dubrovnik electric boat trams, and long-term plans include olicentric urban development, new roads, and tunnel investments.

How do you view the 2022 season, and what can we expect from the Pearl of the Adriatic this year?

The City of Dubrovnik and its partners, primarily the Dubrovnik Tourist Board, Dubrovnik Airport, and the Port Authority, are continuously working to promote the destination through marketing activities directed at our traditional emitting markets. Since the beginning of the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, we have been managing the destination and all processes in a sustainable way, and that is the reason why the 2021 season was also successful.

The 2022 season brings some new challenges. None of us can influence the intensity and course of the war in Ukraine, but we have undertaken the necessary preliminary work, all in our power, to make the coming season a success. These spring scenes of the streets of our city filled with visitors, that we have witnessed in recent days, are certainly encouraging. It is ungrateful to predict anything in these conditions, but I believe that if the war in Ukraine does not escalate, we could achieve the figures from 2017 or 80 percent of the results in 2019. In general, in 2022, Dubrovnik will continue to build its path of destination of sustainability and excellence for each of our guests.


(Photo: Mario Romulić)

Today is the last day to register your team to participate in a luxury workation in Dubrovnik, and you can do so through this LINK!

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. 

To learn more about magnificent Dubrovnik, check out the Total Croatia Dubrovnik in a Page guide, in partnership with Sun Gardens Dubrovnik.  

For more news and features on digital nomads in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section


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