Digital Nomads

Zagreb's Digital Nomad Op: The View from Swanky MINT Hostel

By 8 June 2021

 June 9, 2021 - Zagreb Digital Nomad Week will take place all over the city to showcase the diversity of the city. Thursday, June 24 is Finance Day at Swanky MINT Hostel.

One of the exciting things about the upcoming Zagreb Digital Nomad Week 2021 & Digital Nomad Ambassador Project is the decision to hold the event all over the city, and in a variety of locations - hotel, coworking space, hostel and, of course, the Great Outdoors. 

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An early mover in exploiting the new opportunities the digital nomad lifestyle has been Swanky MINT Hostel, arguably Croatia's most innovative hostel and travel group. Located very centrally on Ilica, Swanky has been attracting digital nomads for some time, and they managed to survive last years horrors by some smart diversification. 

Ahead of ZDNW 2021, TCN caught up with Swanky Travel Branch Manager and Travel Master, Iva Perokovic, to learn more about that, ZDNW, and the new tourism realities in Zagreb.

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1. Let's start with last year. Zagreb, a pandemic, two earthquakes, a hostel. Take us through the realities of running a hostel during that crazy year.

It was a roller-coaster for sure. At the beginning of the pandemic, we were closed for a short while faced with cancelations, earthquakes and generally uncertain about the future of business. It was like a bad break up – going through the 5 phases: Shock & denial, Pain & anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance...

Nevertheless, we were active all the time introducing new ideas and trying to keep sane. We advertised vouchers for future travel, did a “Swanky Quarantine” show for Instagram, organized giveaways, filmed a virtual Zagreb tour, made special offers, and - for the first time ever -  long term stay options. We redecorated some things in the hostel and prepared for the opening following all the epidemiological measures.

During spring and summer, things got better and it felt like the worst was behind us. The best thing that happened was our long-term guests (some staying up to 5 months, some coming back even during winter) who really became a part of our Swanky family. Regarding business itself, there were not a lot of us employed so the level of teamwork skyrocketed.

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2. You were one of the first to offer long-stay accommodation for digital nomads in Zagreb. How did that come about, and how successful has the initiative been?

Yes, thanks to long-term accommodation, we actually had guests all the time. Digital nomads are nothing new to us, but in the last year we really saw an increased number of people wanting to stay and work in Zagreb (freelancers, exchange students, bloggers & influencers or people who were just on “on a break” from working).

We advertised this through our own channels but also through different OTAs for long term stays offering both private rooms and dorms with extra services such as breakfast, tours and activities, laundry service, rent a bike, discounts in our bar and with many of our partners (museums, restaurants, hairdressers, …). We are also pet-friendly, so long-term guest can bring their four-legged friends.

People coming from countries with really bad covid situations and strict rules, felt a release to be in a place where there is no hard lockdown and where you can walk outside without a mask and grab a cup of coffee in the bar (since Swanky Monkey Garden was opened for the guests of the hostel)

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3. As one of Zagreb's innovative tourism providers, you are at the cutting edge of tourism change in the city, and you will have had more contact with digital nomads than most. Are you seeing more nomads coming to Zagreb, and what trends are you noticing?

Digital nomads have been coming to Zagreb (and Croatia) for years but we just did not have the need to focus our marketing and sales specifically for them. Now it has became more popular with the introduction of Digital nomad Residence Permit but because of the corona situation, we feel that it did not get the appropriate attention. For now, we saw a trend in solo traveling as a nomad with friends, partners and family coming for a visit + a lot of exchange students coming for half semesters or shorter summer/winter schools.

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4. The future of work is going to be very different with this shift to remote work. What are the opportunities for Zagreb's tourism providers, and how should they best prepare themselves for the opportunities?

First and most important – we all have to be flexible and follow the trends. There are things neither of us can influence on so in some cases it is actually smart to follow the rule “if you can´t beat it – join it”. Regarding both tours and accommodation, we expect private versions will be the most popular (maybe even the only option). Of course – safety first so tourism providers should really follow all the epidemiological rules and do their best to provide a safe environment. We can forget about big groups and mass tourism for a while and focus on individuals and providing real local experiences.

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5. The concept and opportunity of digital nomadism is still not widely understood in Croatia, and education of the possibilities seems to be a top priority to move this opportunity forward. How do we best provide that education?

Well, a lot of things in Croatian tourism are not widely understood since we have all kinds of people and companies trying to get a piece of that cake. Tourist boards are doing their part in providing info (some more, some less) but more agencies, guides, hotels, hostels etc. should get involved and maybe bump heads in order to provide better service and aimed offer towards digital nomads. Also, we should not forget the fact that corona stepped in a way so a lot of tourism provides had other, more important things on their mind.

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6. Tell us about your involvement in ZDNW and why you decided to get involved?

It is a great opportunity to meet people who think alike. Swanky has been always following trends and this one is important. Zagreb has so many things to offer and I honestly think it can become a new European digital nomad hub. This opens a lot of possibilities for new business, because Swanky can provide info, accommodation, tours and activities, meeting and networking events, parties and most important – a local friend and host.

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7. Zagreb as a destination for digital nomads. Sell it to us in a sentence - why should they come here?

The question is not why – it is WHY NOT?  Zagreb is well connected to other European hubs, its safe and it is a perfect combination of traditional and modern lifestyle with a lower cost of living than most of the EU capitals and with both urban and nature parts, plus a bunch of great restaurants, bars and outdoor happening and festivals.

8. And finally, tell us a little about Swanky 2021. You guys always have something new. What do you have in store for this season?

This year we are not doing any big groundbreaking changes. We will “listen” to our guests' needs and trends in tourism keeping up with them so we can be prepared for 2022. SWANKY TRAVEL will focus on private and small group activities, especially on urbex tours . SWANKY MINT HOSTEL will keep the long-term accommodation option, open a pool during summer and offer extra value to its guests. SWANKY MONKEY GARDEN will take care of both locals and guests offering great vibe, cool music, delicious cocktails and wonderful sunny terrace.

And when this pandemic and crazy period will be finally over – we want to be here to talk about it, coming out of it smarter, stronger and richer for this life-changing experience…

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#neverstopexploring #stayswanky

For more information about Zagreb Digital Nomad Week 2021 & Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador Project, visit the Saltwater Nomads website.

Want to Stay Swanky? Learn more on the official website.

For more news and features from the digital nomad scene in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section.

Follow the Swanky empire on Instagram.

Zagreb Digital Nomad Week 2021 is a collaboration between Saltwater Nomads, Total Croatia News, Digital Nomad Association Croatia, and Zagreb Tourist Board, who are financing the project.

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