It is almost exactly a year since I wrote an article called Why Zagreb is Increasingly Attractive to a Growing Number of Digital Nomads. A year, but seemingly a lifetime, ago. But while 2020 was a terrible year for most of us, it was a very good one for the digital nomad movement, with Zagreb making more advances to position itself as one of the most interesting destinations for remote workers in Europe once things return to a semblance of normality.
In the pre-pandemic article a year ago, I explored 10 reasons why Zagreb was growing in popularity for digital nomads. A year later, all ten are still valid, with several more to add to the list. Affordability, accessibility, safety, English spoken, excellent food & wine, a great tourist destination, a thriving tech scene, quality medical tourism, proximity to the Schengen zone, and that unbeatable relaxed Croatian lifestyle were the ten hooks for digital nomads a year ago.
And then the pandemic hit, shifting the focus of many lives during lockdown to a more virtual world. It was estimated before the pandemic that there would be one billion remote workers by 2035. That estimate now looks very conservative, as many people got used to working from home and away from the office. Many of those jobs will never return to the office – even more digital nomads for tourism in the future.
While the tourism potential of the concept of providing services for digital nomads gradually took hold globally with the prospect of the new normal, things moved forward much faster in Croatia. An open letter to the Croatian Prime Minister from a Dutch entrepreneur asking for a digital nomad visa resulted in Parliament passing legislation for Croatia to become only the second country in Europe to offer a digital nomad visa.
The final bureaucratic touches are being applied to the new permit, which will allow digital nomads of a certain income level to spend 12 months in Zagreb and elsewhere in Croatia, with no local tax burdens. Legislation has already been passed by Parliament, and the visa is scheduled to be available by the end of March latest.
News of the proposed visa went global, leading to intense interest in Croatian destinations, but it also had another positive impact for Zagreb tourism – by generating interest and attention from the city’s tourism businesses, keen to learn how to take advantage of the opportunity.
Initial understanding of the needs of digital nomads has moved on from a year ago when the general perception was that an apartment with clean sheets and decent Internet was ‘digital nomad friendly.’ More Zagreb tourism businesses are understanding that lifestyle and quality of life are also essential elements of the offer, rather than just a bed and WiFi. Some Zagreb hostels, for example, are adapting to the new reality by offering special digital nomad monthly rental packages, including meals, for a fixed fee, with their outreach services available through their hostel services.
The formation of the Digital Nomad Association is another step in the right direction. The Zagreb-based assocation will be fully functional in the coming weeks, offering a bridge of support between nomads, their hosts and issues with the Croatian authorities and bureacracy. There are plans to educate local tourism providers on the needs of these mobile guests, as well as a platform for services such as accommodation which are ‘nomad-friendly’ which are certified by the association.
Zagreb tourism promotion has changed in the last year as well, offering even more to the visitor. Arguably one of the best initiatives last year was the launch of Around Zagreb, a new platform combining the treasures and activities in Zagreb the city and the surrounding county. The site has been a revelation since going online, offering countless new options to city visitors which had previously been ignored. From hiking and cycling on Sljeme, to wine tasting in Plesivca, truffle hunting in Turopolje, or a round of golf in Zapresic, the lifestyle options for longer-term remote workers are only increasing in Zagreb.
Tourism is changing, and there are many reasons to be positive. The 10 reasons why Zagreb is increasingly attractive to digital nomads are still as true one year on, with several quality additions to the list after the challenges of 2020.
To follow the digital nomad story in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section.