At the end of the nineteenth century, the good people of Dalmatia got the word that the big wine-producing countries, France, and Spain primarily, lost almost all their vineyards due to the small but mighty pest called phylloxera. They rushed and dug all their olive groves, fruit orchards, and gardens and planted vines, hectares and hectares of vine, thousands of hectares. What followed was several years of amazing growth. The prices were going up and it seemed that the panacea for all the hardships of the hardworking people of the Adriatic coastline was in hand. Well, we know now that it was a terribly bad idea. Some people knew it at the time as well, but their voices could not be heard, as people did not want to hear it. Phylloxera reached our fine shores as well and wiped out all those thousands of hectares of the recently planted vineyards which led to a great famine and mass emigration to the Americas and elsewhere. In the meantime, French and Italian and Spanish growers “vaccinated” their vines by grafting them on the resilient American roots, and their life and wine production resumed. Ours almost came to a halt.
At the start of the twenty-first century, the good people of Dalmatia got the word that many of the countries that we saw as our competitors in the tourism industry disappeared from the map, mainly due to the geopolitical turmoil, wars being waged in the vicinity or some other factors that made them unsafe to travel. So, we rushed and turned all our houses, apartments, and garages into summer rentals. What followed was several years of amazing growth. The prices were going up and it seemed that the panacea for all the hardships of the hardworking people of the Adriatic coastline was in hand. Well, we know now that it was a terribly bad idea. Some people knew it at the time as well, but their voices could not be heard, as people did not want to hear it. Coronavirus reached our fine shores and wiped out our touristic output by 75%. The apartments for the major part are sitting empty and will probably do so second season in a row, and people are looking for the best emigration options.
The latest panacea on the shelves of the pharmacy of our lives is called “digital nomads”. Apparently, the big cities of the world are not the most pleasant places to be in and live in right now, and people are going to rush to our fine shores and set their IT shops and office, sip wine on the balconies of those empty apartments and leave us their money. People are digging trenches and bringing optic fibers to their houses on the islands, believing that with the high-speed internet connection and the unbearable blueness of our seas and skies it will be impossible to resist the call to join the movement of digital nomadry. While in essence a good idea, and a good PR stunt, albeit not nearly as good as the one from Dubai or some Caribbean islands, and one that I support in terms of legislation and easing of the bureaucratic burdens, I cannot help but feel like we are doing the same things all over again.
We keep looking for new trends and perhaps new directions, without ever establishing a clear identity. The digital nomad program cannot be our identity. It can perhaps be one of the trends or one of the directions we take, but it must stem from the strong, well-built, and easy-to-understand industry identity. We will not be able to build the identity until we understand the progression of economic value, from commodities to experiences and transformations. You simply cannot skip the steps and expect that the entire thing does not falter like a house of cards at the first sign of trouble. We have learned how to commoditize sea and sun, and that to a point only. How those commodities make goods that deliver services that set the stage for experiences that guide transformation is still to be understood for the vast majority of those who pertain to play the part in this industry of people aggregation, travel, tourism, hospitality, leisure, and all connected industry spin-offs. This is obviously not a problem of those who promote this program, which to reiterate once again, I fully support, but of those who keep looking for simple solutions to the complex problems. This a general human characteristic, but sometimes it feels we excel at it a bit more than the others. This will be short-lived solution, until next one surfaces and then we will all rush to root out our vines and plant the lavender. Oh, wait, that has already happened as well!
For more about the digital nomad scene in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section.