Digital Nomads

Beyond the Walls: DN-i-R Presents Sustainable Dubrovnik Tourism Direction

By 22 October 2021

October 22, 2021 - Sustainable Dubrovnik tourism was the topic at a workshop in Lazareti today, as the Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence case study was presented, along with the city announcing co-working spaces, a co-living space, and the Dubrovnik Digital Nomad card. 

It has been quite a journey. 

And we are still only at the beginning. 


It is just 15 months since the Mayor of Dubrovnik, Mato Frankovic, gave me 30 minutes of his time to hear some ideas we had regarding sustainable Dubrovnik tourism. Half an hour later, we had an agreement to cooperate, and work started the next morning with Deputy Mayor, Jelka Tepsic, and Dubrovnik Tourist Board director, Ana Hrnic. 

Despite the considerable restrictions caused by the pandemic, progress has been swift. In October last year, the first-ever digital nomad conference, Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads, was held in Dubrovnik. It was a cooperation between the city of Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik Tourist Board, Saltwater Nomads, and Total Croatia News. 


It was followed by the Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence program, the first event of its kind in the world, where 10 international nomads from different backgrounds and experiences, came to the city for 4 weeks to work with the city, tourist board, and community to co-create a strategy to help Dubrovnik develop its digital nomad strategy to attract more remote workers. 


The DN-i-R project achieved international recognition at the recent Conventa 2021 awards in Ljubljana, as well as being presented at the recent Cross Border Coworking Conference in Budva as an example of regional best practice. 


At today's event '1 Year On, Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads Workshop' (so-called as it a year since that inaugural conference), Saltwater Nomads CEO and architect of the DN-i-R program, Tanja Polegubic, presented the case study of the findings of DN-i-R. Deputy Mayor Tepsic and Director Hrnic also presented their impressions, with DN-i-R facilitator extraordinaire Erin Maxwell also on stage. 


The case study outlined a strategy to success for the project created by the DN-i-Rs, with some very early quick wins to help Dubrovnik on that journey. 


The image and perception of Dubrovnik as a one-dimensional destination with only enough content for 2-3 days was evident at the presentation of the DN-i-R initial findings at a press conference back in May. A simple Google image search of Dubrovnik provided the same results - a spectacular and historic old town, but nothing more. And one of the key findings of the strength and potential of Dubrovnik's tourism was what lay 'Beyond the Walls'. Far from being a 2-3 day destination, find out why these 10 DN-i-Rs concluded that 30 days was not enough to spend in Dubrovnik


Changing the perception of Dubrovnik is going to take time after the horror years of overtourism prior to the pandemic, but the image (and a real image) of a more sustainable Dubrovnik is already taking hold. Few newspaper editors would have chosen Dubrovnik for the lead photo for an article about digital nomads a year ago, as The Times did recently, for example - in stark contrast to the Death of Dubrovnik headlines in the UK media just 4 years ago. 


Leading DN website NomadList is one of the biggest online resources for DN opinions and statistics. The recent 2021 survey was extremely good news, with Croatia named as the 2nd most liked destination after Japan. Data extrapolated from the Trends, based on real geographical data of users of the site showed that nomads were visiting Croatia - including Dubrovnik - in ever greater numbers.

The DN-i-R program can only achieve so much on its own, and it would have had limited success had its recommendations not been implemented. Too often in Croatian tourism, projects finish, a box is ticked, perhaps the right person has been thanked for a favour by being awarded a project. For Dubrovnik's Dn journey to continue, it is essential that the city maintains the momentum, builds the nomad community, and engages the local community. 


And not only did Dubrovnik rise to the challenge with their announcements today, but they exceeded my expectations. Among the things Ana Hrnic announced:

  • The opening of no less than 3 coworking spaces, at strategic parts of the city - Lazareti by the old town, the Red History Museum in Gruz, and Sunset Beach in Lapad.
  • The first co-living space in Dubrovnik.
  • A new planned information website for Dubrovnik, with its own visual identity, dedicated to longer-stay visitors.
  • A check-in point for DNs at the main tourist board office at Pile Gate by the old town.
  • A Dubrovnik Digital Nomad Card.

The Dubrovnik digital nomad card, believed to be the first of its kind in the world, will be launched soon, offering discounts for nomads from participating businesses. As TCN recently reported, the city recently invited businesses to provide special offers for digital nomads staying for an extended period. So far, 17 businesses have joined the programme, with more expected to follow. 

Deputy Mayor Tepsic also stressed the importance of involving and educating the community, with plans to hold monthly hybrid workshops to help Dubrovnik's tourism businesses better understand and adapt to the DN opportunity. 

Participation of the local community and local authorities will be crucial for the success of the initiative, and the facilitators of DN-i-R have been extremely impressed at the high level of engagement from the local community. This was in evidence once more today, as community members from the adventure tourism, restaurant, and private accommodation businesses explained how they were adapting their offers to welcome digital moments. Continued education, encouragement and information will only bring out more such offers. 

There is a long way to go, but Dubrovnik is demonstrating once again its willingness to take the lead in an attempt to build a more sustainable Dubrovnik tourism model. 

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