Thursday, 18 March 2021

Saltwater Nomads' Tanja Polegubic on Dubrovnik Digital Nomad-in-Residence Programme

March 18, 2021 - There are less than 2 weeks to go until applications for the Dubrovnik Digital Nomad-in-Residence (DN-I-R) competition closes. An in-depth interview with competition creator, Tanja Polegubic of Saltwater Nomads. 

The pandemic has been a strange time for all of us, but it has also brought new directions and opportunities. I would never have expected to have been involved in the organisation of Croatia's first-ever digital nomad conference, Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads

2020 was a great year for the digital nomad sector in Croatia, culminating of course in the introduction of the digital nomad permit on January 1. Now nomads meeting the criteria are able to live for one year in Croatia and work remotely. TCN teamed up with one of the early pioneers in these fairly uncharted waters, Saltwater Nomads. Dubrovnik was the first destination to see the value in what we were offering, we have been working with them ever since. 

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Saltwater CEO, Tanja Polegubic, designed and delivered the October conference, and she is also behind the Dubrovnik Digital Nomad-in-Residence competition, a unique concept which has attracted considerable international attention. And some VERY strong early applications. 

There has also been some confusion about the competition and what we are trying to achieve, and I thought that the best way to explain more would be to get young Tanja to explain in more depth. 

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(Photo by Damira Kalajzic)

It is being billed as the world's first digital nomad-in-residence competition, in partnership with the city and tourist board of Dubrovnik. Can you briefly explain what that means exactly, and what you are trying to achieve?

The notion of a scholar- or artist-in-residence is a globally recognised concept. These residencies are models of collaboration; they bring diversity to an institution, and foster an environment for research, knowledge sharing - and in this case, the goal will be implementation.

The selected DN-I-Rs will participate in design thinking workshops and present their findings on shaping a Digital Nomad Friendly city.

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The first goal in working with Dubrovnik was to build awareness about the city and what it can offer for digital nomads, as it was not previously known for this - but was certainly infamous! This is in motion, with much international media coverage about Croatia’s most famous city. Like most places, it is undergoing a transformation - everyone knows what Dubrovnik looked like before. Digital nomads are only one aspect of this. We are using a co-creation model to look at ways digital nomads fit this new direction.

You are offering 10 lucky winners the chance to spend 4 weeks as guests of Dubrovnikworking with the city to develop their strategy to better serve digital nomads. Who is eligible to apply, and what kind of applicants are you looking for ideally?

Anyone who can be a digital nomad for a month can apply. This might be first-timers, who are perhaps working from home right now - or a seasoned digital nomad travelling the world.

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We are looking for applicants who will bring value to the program. This isn’t a free ride - even though you’ll go on some amazing local area tours, free! We want to see evidence you will commit and can make a contribution. We’re looking for diversity in age and professions. We also need to know what skills you will bring, and we have answers such as “community building, playing the ukulele, history knowledge” so it is really about what an individual brings and looking at how that will fit in a group. We don’t expect people to have experience doing this before,or1 million followers 

If you are asking for a hot tip - I can only say, ensure it reflects your personality - we want to see the real you. Also, do some research on Dubrovnik to inform the reason WHY you are applying.

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(The Lazareti, the original quarantine premises for the Dubrovnik  Republic, which is where the first digital nomad conference in Croatia was held)

The application period is already open and runs until March 31. How has the response been so far? 

The applications we’ve received so far are diverse and strong. As it’s the first time it has been done, this will be the benchmark. There are also COVID19 factors to consider. Not many people are sure of their ability to travel right now. On that note - COVID19 safety is our high priority and we are operating within the prescribed guidelines and in constant consultation with the City about this.

We are confident a high-quality group will emerge.

There will be other opportunities to be involved, so anyone who applies will get this information, first.

Your company, Saltwater Nomads, is providing both the concept and the delivery of the Dubrovnik Nomads-in-Residence programme. Why Dubrovnik?

First Movers

Dubrovnik was the first to recognise and follow through on the idea to welcome digital nomads to an external audience.

Sustainability

Dubrovnik was, according to some reports, the second most overcrowded city in the world. I watched on during the war. I visited for the first time in 2001 as a volunteer at Trsteno Arboretum. I considered it as a destination when I first began researching opening a cowork in 2015. Its history is … epic. It is Croatia’s best-known city, so when it prospers, this can only benefit every other city in Croatia - nomads travel. So, from bringing wider benefits to Croatia, to delivering a more sustainable approach - the why is clear to me.

Action-oriented

Getting things done in Dalmatia can be difficult, drawn out and tiring. There’s a lot of skills atrophy. Complaints, with no action. A brain drain. Anyone with a more open-minded and longterm vision, in this case a city - is where energies should go right now. Local council and institutional support is key.

Dubrovnik has demonstrated it “gets it”, and I forgot for a while what that looked like. I am also pleased to say, other cities are taking progressive steps, and were perhaps limited due to many factors - so I am confident Dubrovnik is just the start.

Keep an eye out for new projects in Zagreb, Bačvice beach Split and an island.

You are known as one of the pioneers of the remote work initiative in Croatia, opening your first co-working space back in 2017, and there has been a lot of buzz regarding the Croatian digital nomad 'visa', or permit. How has the scene changed in Croatia since you started?

I started researching opening a coworking space here in 2015. My father became ill, and ultimately passed away, so I did not come until 2017. Prior to Covid-19, it was a tough run on the coast. You’re too expensive in Summer, and there’s not much to offer in Winter, so no one knows about you and goes to Bali instead. Also, no one knew what I was doing - but my first “walk-in” the first month I opened was from Google. I wasn’t even ready yet, but I took this as a sign I was onto something. In that time, I branched out to do a range of project work, and met a lot of people and discovered the kind of person I would want to do business with - having had no experience in business - and really learning a lot. I am still learning.

The pandemic (and as a result, working from home) has changed everything. Croatia’s new digital nomad permit has turned it into turbo mode. There are more online services due to COVID19. These are progressive steps to making Croatia ideal for digital nomads.

The thing I most expect to change, is a rise in people with Croatian origins also considering Croatia as their office. I already see it, in fact.

What are the biggest challenges for Croatia and its tourism providers in order that they fully take advantage of this opportunity? I am struck, for example, by high levels of enthusiasm to offer 'digital nomad tourism' without necessarily a clear understanding of what that entails.

This is a long-term journey arising out of the pandemic. Digital nomads are just a part of it. While it is great to see enthusiasm, a more informed approach and diversification would be wise. Can digital nomads be one form of moving toward this? I believe so.

I am reading and talking to some of the more visionary thinkers to offer something other than tourism. It is my belief that a digital nomad audience can deliver capacity-building opportunities regular tourism cannot, for example, by knowledge sharing and showing “you can work from anywhere” helps the younger generation see they have options. Also, Croatia is a place which can be a base for different sectors. Again, to touch on Croatians outside Croatia - if the rest of the world is coming here to work, why can’t you - but in this case, actually invest or run a business, which a non-EU national on a digital nomad permit currently cannot.

The biggest challenge, currently, is education. Providers need to know why and how a digital nomad is different to a regular tourist.

For example, this includes longer stays, a desire for more immersion in community and feeling at home.

Longer stays are the best example - it is hard for someone who has previously made 8,000 euro in 1 month to now offer the same apartment for 800 euro. Thus, landlords must decide if they will offer monthly bookings vs nightly. This is currently, and I expect will continue to be, Croatia’s greatest challenge; it impacts a decision on where to stay and will be a deterrent if prices and convenience are not available year-round. Some incentives for more properties to offer this is one way which can help.

Also, knowing what to offer.

A lot of people are working from home - the kitchen table is not always suitable. Nor is slow or unreliable internet. People are travelling with or adopting pets. They are self-catering more. They require everyday household items - such as more coathangers. It really can be that simple. You need to consider utilities pricing, and then things like whether you are registering a nomad as a tourist, or will have a lease - as the taxes differ. There’s a lot of new information and adjustments to be made. Some are quick fixes, some need more investment.

These are areas which can be addressed, and I am confident Croatia offers everything - Lifestyle being number 1.

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(With Digital Nomad Association co-founder, Jan de Jong)

You are also a co-founder of the Digital Nomad Association in Croatia. Tell us a little about that.

Working in a tough town with a tough business to make viable has meant I’ve encountered almost every problem imaginable for digital nomads. I enter the DNA bringing these insights, as I’ve directly been impacted by the same issues a digital nomad, or business serving digital nomads, may face.

Being part of DNA Croatia with Jan and Karmela is one of the greatest things to come out of last year. I learn every day from the different skills my colleagues have, and we each bring a different perspective.

The association is about strength in numbers. Our current focus is heavily administrative, and the next focus is to drive membership, and collectively work toward meeting our five goals which are: representation (eg. to government bodies), community building, education, information and certification (eg. ‘digital nomad friendly’ properties). I also believe we were the first in the world with such an association. We really saw the need to get things right from the start of the permit being launched. How? We bring a range of collective expertise.

There’s entrepreneurial, community work and NGO experience in our founding team. Every day, we hear from and factor in how people in Croatia or digital nomads want to be served. Our aim is to bring all this together.

Each one of us is passionate, has a strong network - and is actively contributing to make Croatia realise its potential. Even in the face of occasional criticism - but from what I see, the ones who criticise are quick to give an opinion, but haven’t done anything to change things.

And finally, what are you hoping the end results will be of the programme, and how will you measure its success?

The expectations are high. Success is a happy City and Tourist Board, number one. Next are the participants. We’re promising a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so it’s a big task.

We’re confident the workshops will be engaging and involve members of the community in a co-creation model. For example, the tourist council is a knowledgeable base of experts to engage, through to tour guides, historians, you name it. The structure of the program will determine who is identified - the first task is to see how the digital nomads experience the City themselves. It then calls for the involvement of relevant local stakeholders. This is built into the co-creation model. Some locals have already reached out, which is wonderful.

Enjoyment

The tour program made my jaw drop (I don’t know how anyone will get any of their regular work done with all there is to do)! The participants are there to enjoy being in Dubrovnik for a month as special guests of the City and Tourist board. It has to be a positive experience, which they will promote, with authenticity.

Sustainability

It is a thrown-around term. Still, our efforts are intended for there to be ongoing benefits beyond the four weeks of the DN-I-R program. Will our findings and recommendations be able to be implemented? Will they benefit incoming digital nomads and locals? Sustainability equals success.

Local buy-in

The City and Tourist Board supports this and recognises its value. During the program, which uses a co-creation model, we continue to look to the City and Tourist Board for guidance on who and how to engage with the community they serve. When a number of new products and services emerge - as a result of this program and other efforts, then it’s a win/win.

Beyond Dubrovnik’s walls

Success is other locations - in the region or beyond, adopting a similar or modified approach - i.e. making the effort to do something to suit a remote working audience. It doesn’t have to be so intensive, but the roadmap is expected to have some universal ‘tweaks’, but of course there will be location-specific things to implement.

Numbers

The moonshot is to be profiled as a best-practice example for cities adopting new strategies to cater to remote workers and demonstrate Croatia has some of the best places to live by more digital nomads coming. We are slow when you compare us to other established Mediterranean countries - so we are making up for it. For a tourist-reliant city to make such a move, this has already drawn the attention of urban planning publications - so already, the world is watching. Success is when they start coming to live and work here.

There is still time to apply, with applications accepted until March 31. Learn more about the competition rules and apply via the official Saltwater entry form.

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

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Croatian Tourist Board Promoting Croatia as Attractive Destination For Digital Nomads

ZAGREB, 10 March, 2021 - The Croatian National Tourist Board (HTZ) has launched a new promotional campaign "Croatia, your new office!" with the aim of promoting Croatia as a suitable destination for digital nomads.

As part of the campaign a special landing page Croatia your your new office was created in English on the Croatia.hr website together with the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, which contains all the important information related to the permit application process and stay of digital nomads in Croatia, the HTZ says.

At the end of November 2020 the Croatian parliament adopted the Aliens Act, which entered into force at the beginning of 2021 and the legislation enables digital nomads to be granted temporary residence in the country for up to a year.

"Croatia is one of the first members of the European Union to regulate a one-year temporary stay for digital nomads, and this is the result of the cooperation between the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Tourism and Sports," Tourism Minister Nikolina Brnjac was quoted as saying.

"Digital nomads are an excellent opportunity for the Croatian economy, and we are pleased with the fact that digital nomads are showing increased interest for numerous Croatian cities," the minister said, adding that she is sure that Croatia will impress digital nomads with its natural scenery and cultural heritage.

"I wish all current and future digital nomads a warm welcome to one of the most desirable and unique European destinations - Croatia," Brnjac said.

"Croatia is a country where English is widely spoken, a country that offers a unique way of life with authentic experiences, has a good internet connection, favourable climate and beautiful natural surroundings, good proximity and is easily accessible to the rest of Europe, highly affordable compared to European standards and good and affordable healthcare," the HTZ Director Kristjan Staničić said.

"The above has also been recognized by many foreign media outlets, including the world's leading brand of travel guides Lonely Planet which dedicated a recent article to the topic of digital nomads and the conditions that foreigners must meet to spend a year in Croatia as digital nomads, while the reputable magazine Forbes, in both the French and American editions, published an article about our country as a desirable and open destination for digital nomads. Also, many American media list Croatia and Dubrovnik as extremely desirable destinations for digital nomads," the HTZ says on its website.

For more about digital nomads in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Saturday, 6 March 2021

From Phylloxera to Apartmentisation, the Road to Nomad Land

March 6, 2021 - It is always a pleasure to publish the thoughts of Zoran Pejovic, one of Croatia's most respected tourism professionals. A word of warning to those rushing into the digital nomad tourism opportunity, looking back at the examples of phylloxera and apartmentisation. 

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!

You can read more of Zoran's writings on TCN here.

For more about the digital nomad scene in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section.

Friday, 5 March 2021

Dubrovnik Launches World's First Digital Nomad-in-Residence Competition

March 5, 2021 - Just a few months after hosting Croatia's first-ever digital nomad conference, Dubrovnik launches the world's first digital nomad-in-residence competition. Come help shape the remote work strategy of Kings Landing!

Few places in Croatia have been as badly affected by the pandemic economically as Dubrovnik, Croatia's best-known and most iconic city, also known as the Pearl of the Adriatic. Heavily dependent on flights and cruise ships for the bulk of its tourism, COVID-19 wiped out those markets, leaving a city almost devoid of tourism and looking at ways to adjust to the new normal. 

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I first met Mayor Mato Frankovic in July last year, when I pitched the idea of reorientating part of the city's tourism around lifestyle, catering to the growing number of remote workers around the world, who were looking to experience lifestyle when they leave their remote offices each day. After a hard day's work, how better to relax than with a coffee on Stradun or a stroll around those magnificent old city walls?

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The digital nomad story in Croatia was just starting to get some traction. Dutch entrepreneur Jan de Jong had just sent his open letter to Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, asking him to introduce a digital nomad visa for Croatia. Some 44 days after that, Plenkovic tweeted a photo with Split's favourite Dutchman announcing his intention to do just that. The tax code and Foreigner's Act were amended, and from January 1, 2021, the legal framework was in place to welcome digital nomads for 12-month stays. Soon after, an American in Istria became the first bearer of the new visa. Meet Melissa Paul, Owner of Croatia's First Digital Nomad Visa.

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(Jan de Jong, the driving force behind Croatia's digital nomad visa, Mayor Mato Frankovic, and TCN's Paul Bradbury at the Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads conference in October 2020)

Dubrovnik's engagement with the concept of developing a strategy for digital nomads led to the first dedicated conference in Croatia back in October. Organised by local remote work specialists, Saltwater Nomads, the Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads conference reached a global audience, including a citation in The Washington Post. Coupled with Croatia's more accommodating approach to tourists durig the pandemic, the message was clear - Croatia's lifestyle and natural beauty were very appealing. The perfect base for remote workers looking for a little extra.

Dubrovnik's beauty and lifestyle got an extra boost in August, as ABC News spent a week covering the topic of Americans travelling during corona times, and the feature above on Good Morning America was watched by 12.5 million people. 

Keen to build on the strong foundations of the October conference, the City of Dubrovnik and Dubrovnik Tourist Board have been working closely with Saltwater Nomads to develop a strategy to enable the city to better serve its remote working visitors, as well as better positioning Dubrovnik in the market. 

As part of that strategy, Saltwater owner, Tanja Polegubic, a Croatian returnee from Australia who has been serving digital nomads since setting up Saltwater in 2017, has come up with what we believe is the world's first digital nomad-in-residence contest, bringing digital nomads from all over the world for four weeks in Dubrovnik to work with the city to help it deliver a better understanding of the needs of its remote working guests, as well as using their know-how to help Dubrovnik build a better brand and presence in this rapidly expanding sector. 

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(Competition organiser and remote working pioneer in Croatia Tanja Polegubic also organised Croatia's first digital nomad conference in Dubrovnik in October. Jan de Jong was a keynote speaker. Both are founding members of the Digital Nomad Association for Croatia). 

The conference was one of my personal and Professional highlights of 2020," Tanja told TCN. "It’s been really wonderful to see new businesses spring up - and mention the conference and the news of The permit. The DN-I-R residency program will be reaching out to these “early adopters” to be involved. Our approach is co-creation. We will pair the digital nomads to Match global Trends with the local community - I’m really excited about what we’re going to roll out!

The digital nomad-in-residence (DN-I-R) contest will give 10 lucky winners a complimentary 4-week stay as guests of the city, with various meals, tours, workshops and other activities also included. From the Saltwater contest information:

Using a co-creation model, the Saltwater program team will bring together residents and the 10 digital nomads selected as DN-I-Rs. Over a four-week period, the digital nomads will attend design thinking workshops to create a strategic direction for the city, especially as it adjusts to a more sustainable direction and manages the impact of COVID19. 

The competition even allows companies to nominate a star employee - as long as they also agree to terms and conditions if selected. As many digital nomads are couples travelling in Croatia, if a winner has a partner - they can apply and if one is selected can share the free accommodation.

The project, which commences on April 23, will enable the 10 lucky winners to collaborate, upskill, and contribute to the development of Dubrovnik's digital nomad strategy, with the aim of enhancing Dubrovnik's standing in the digital nomad community. Dubrovnik has a reputation of being expensive, which it certainly can be, with a perception among some that there is little to do outside the city walls, which is certainly not true. The exchange of minds and experiences will help to dispel some of these myths. 

DN-I-Rs will receive professional development training, participate in workshops and present their findings on shaping Dubrovnik as a Digital Nomad Friendly city. This will be presented at a finale event at the end of the programme. The Digital Nomad Association (DNA) Croatia will also be involved - with an event incorporated into the end of the programme.

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Mayor of Dubrovnik Mato Frankovic is looking forward to working with the city new international digital ambassadors: 

Dubrovnik really has everything one could wish for a comfortable life, but also excellent working conditions, and the City of Dubrovnik is constantly working to improve the quality of life and stay in this city. Digital nomads are very welcome. I believe that the conference we held in Dubrovnik last October clearly conveyed that message. With these further activities we want to emphasize this even more, and we see that in the international community Dubrovnik is already recognized as a desirable destination for digital nomads. The digital nomad story has the support of the Government of the Republic of Croatia, which is reflected in the fact that visas for nomads were introduced, as announced.

I wish all competitors the best of luck, and the winners of this competition will certainly gain wonderful experiences in Dubrovnik and, I am sure, be the ambassadors of Dubrovnik in the world.

An innovative approach to a new tourism strategy, so why not get involved? If you are a digital nomad and would like to be a guest of Dubrovnik and assist in shaping its digital nomad service for future guests, now is your once-in-a-lifetime chance! 

Applications are open from midday today until March 31. More details on the programme and the application requirements and procedure can be found on the Saltwater website

Learn more about the magic of Dubrovnik in our fully updated Total Croatia 2021 Dubrovnik in a Page guide.

For the latest news about digital nomads in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section.

Monday, 1 March 2021

Croatian Digital Nomad Online Application Form Launched

March 1, 2021 - An important milestone as the Croatia digital nomad online application form is launched in English and Croatia by the Ministry of Interior.

The next phase of the digital nomad story in Croatia is complete, as the Croatian digital nomad online application form has been added to the official website of the Ministry of the Interior. 

Visitors to Croatia last year will be very familiar with the website, as it was also the place where the hugely successful Enter Croatia form was hosted, which helped speed up border crossing times considerably. 

As with the Enter Croatia form, there are bound to be some initial teething problems, which will hopefully be quickly ironed out as they were with Enter Croatia back in May. 

The launch of the online application option is the latest in a very swift (at least by Croatian standards) introduction of the digital nomad visa for Croatia. 

It was only on July 11 last year that Dutch entrepreneur Jan de Jong wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic requesting that Croatia introduce the visa. On August 25, following a meeting with de Jong, Plenkovic tweeted his decision to introduce the visa, and proposed changes in legistlation were put before Parliament the very next day. 

Changes to the tax code and the Aliens Act at the end of last year provided the legal conditions for digital nomads to regulate their stay for a 12-month period, provided the appropriate conditions were met. 

An American in Istria became the first digital nomad to successfully apply in late January - you can read her first interview here: Meet Melissa Paul, Owner of Croatia's First Digital Nomad Visa.

We will bring you more on the process shortly, but for now you can check out the Croatian digital nomad online application form here.

For the updated requirements to apply, check out Croatia Publishes Updated Digital Nomad Visa Requirements.

For the latest on the digital nomad scene in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section

And for a taste of digital nomad life in Croatia, watch how this couple from San Francisco is adapting to winter life on Hvar. 

Friday, 26 February 2021

Croatian TV Showcases the American Digital Nomad Hvar Lifestyle in Jelsa

February 26, 2021 - What happens when you blend American digital nomads with the Hvar lifestyle? As HRT Plus reported last night, it is something close to heaven. 

It is rather a strange feeling watching your home on national television with someone else living in it, but what a lovely report from Maja Zrnic for HRT Puls which went out on primetime television last night. 

With all this talk of digital nomads, what is the reality like, and how is the Hvar lifestyle for digital nomads from the USA in Jelsa during winter, for example. 

A few weeks ago, we published a really great interview with Jess and Thibaud, who have been in Jelsa for a few months and are in the process of applying for the digital nomad visa. You can read the interview in Digital Nomad Life in Croatia: Jess and Thibaud, from San Francisco to Jelsa

Soon after, Maja contacted me and said that was interested in doing a TV story on the couple. Introductions were made, new friendships forged, and Maja captured the Hvar lifestyle through foreign eyes in this ten-minuted feature, which aired last night. It is almost all in English with Croatian subtitles.   

And yes, I did feel a little homesick, not only for the Panorama Penthouse Jelsa apartment that was our home before we moved to Varazdin. But also a little nostalgic for those magical winter months on Hvar.

Maja did a really great job bringing out the Hvar lifestyle in the piece, and it offers a glimpse of how community life can slowly be enriched with the arrival of international digital nomads, who work through their laptops by day (or, in some cases due to time zones, by night) while fully integrating with the local community once work is finished. 

Read more about digital nomad life on Hvar in Hvar Digital Nomad Life with Kids: an Emerging Lifestyle.

For more news on digital nomad topics in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section.

Thursday, 25 February 2021

How Can Hotels Truly Serve Digital Nomads in Croatia?

February 26, 2021 - Digital nomad hotel offers are on the rise in Croatia. Tanja Polegubic of Saltwater Nomads and organiser of Croatia's first dedicated conference, Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads with some great advice on what hotels can do to truly serve digital nomads.

Pivots are increasingly common in the COVID19 era. Hotels are no exception.

In Croatia, especially the tourism sector, a lot of businesses are looking at catering to Digital Nomads. It’s no wonder hotels are here, too. And yet — they have polar pros and cons.

However, there are ways hotels can adjust immediately, and over time to create the best offer possible. These points are covered at the end of the article:

  • Injecting Soul.
  • Food. (Part1and2).
  • Upgrades.
  • HappyHour.
  • Learningandengaging.

Why are hotels now doing this?

  • Croatia has introduced a digital nomad permit, allowing tax-free stays for 1 year.
  • It’s a great place… and can have a year-round offer - filling many empty coastal hotels closed in the “off-season”.
  • Digital nomads are looking for long-term stays.

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CAPTION: Soo and Chris —2020 Saltwater members were recruited to model for Marvie Hotel Split’s longstay deals for digital nomads in Croatia

The backstory.

What were hotels doing before COVID?

Many hotels already had ‘business centres’ or small areas for people to work in rooms or common areas. This isn’t a cowork, or a hub concept, it was a place to plug in. Maybe print things. End of story. 

What was interesting by 2019 was the rise of coworking - gaining the attention of hotels. And entire hotel chains were moving into this direction. I recall reading in May 2019 about Accor group launching over 1200 spaces in Europe with Wojo as a coworking partner.

Later that year, (still pre-COVID), our business, Saltwater, partnered with Davina at Residence Stine and soon to open Heritage Hotel Fermai. They immediately said ‘yes’ to longstay packages for remote workers, and jointly offered the Breakfast Room (a glass garden oasis in the heart of Varoš in Split) as a coworking space.

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CAPTION: July 2020, our coworking partnership with Residence Stine’s indoor-outdoor glass garden 

We launched in COVID19, and I recall the first member ordering breakfast on his first day, as he logged on to read emails. I was concerned it would seem a bit odd —but for 8 euro (and no dishes to wash) it was actually a bonus, and an efficient start to the day.

Due to COVID19, and Summer not being the ‘season’ for digital nomads in Split (expensive rentals), that was that. Until Jan de Jong came in and the digital nomad visa permit was born. Remote work was truly mainstream. Globally.

You know the rest.

COVID-ERA PIVOTS

The first I heard of a global pivot was a partnership announced in July 2020 between Wythe Hotel Brooklyn and Industrious —one of the most respected cowork chains now that WeWork… well, didn’t work! The Wythe Hotel converted entire suites into offices. I was at the Wythe in 2013, and this is a hotel with a rooftop looking out on Manhattan, with a lot of events, including business speakers. The Australian American Association actually held events there, which is what brought me there for a talk by the Australian (and female) co-founder of Van Leeuwen ice creams. I digress… but it clearly demonstrates this is a space which knew back then how to get in non-hotel guests — which is something Croatia does not do well.

This will hopefully change.

THE FIRST COVID OFF-SEASON IN CROATIA.

I read the first stories of hotels starting to offer long-stay options in Croatia toward the end of October last year.

There were a few glaring issues here.

These were places in ghost towns, with probably a very stark hotel restaurant, and at a time when apartment accommodation would be much cheaper - and come with a kitchen.

While it was good to see a shift to accept a remote work audience, it was, for the most part, a misinformed approach. Retrofitting a guest with specific needs to an unsuitable space, and, no community vibe. I’d be interested to see the reviews and data on those places.

What could they do better?

Know these aren’t spaces built for long stay, but work to their strengths, and make adjustments as needed, after testing. 

This is a transitional period. Some, like the Wythe Hotel, will need to convert floors into offices if they are to attract this audience. Or at least create a new space from unused conference halls. Hot tip: not the dark, basement room. Just because it is empty - does not make it a good place to sit and work for 8 hours.

This is a common mistake.

There is something about a coworking space, when done right, will make you actually enjoy going to work. It’s the decor, sure. Location, and if lucky, a very short commute.

Above all, it’s the people.

DISTRIBUTED TEAMS

A recent digital nomad member we hosted at Saltwater is a specialist in distributed teams. We were chatting by the watercooler one day — and he said something which really struck me, (even if I have to paraphrase).

Everyone is feeling so isolated, working from home right now.

When the ‘off-sites’ start happening — workers don’t want a sterile hotel vibe, and to once again, “isolate” in their hotel rooms and the ‘polished’ pool feel and staff. They want connection. They want the shared house style option, where they can do things like prepare a meal together.

Connect — and join local gatherings. 

It’s not rocket science. It’s what we do every day, to ensure members get value. So here’s a quick checklist:

IF YOU’RE A HOTEL

  • Inject some soul. Hold events for non-guests. There are hotels with a health and wellness angle such as Marvie in Split, or weekly live music nights at family-owned Hotel Park Hvar. I visited waterfront Hotel Split in Podstrana last week — which have an existing artist-in-residence program, where a local artist comes in for a few days, and the works are displayed around the hotel and for sale. Events, such as the Wythe Hotel program, will bring the community vibe you need. And you can make it easier, by offering it to the public to hold events, to take the load off your staff.

Opening up doors to non-guests — especially ones who live in your region, not just conference bookings by international M.I.C.E. arrivals, not only advertises your hotel to a wider audience, it will show the local commitment you make, which is valued by digital nomads. And the locals will become ambassadors will get to know, and ultimately be the ones to recommend your venue.

  • Food — part 1. Self Catering.

Living in a room with no kitchen for a month, with makeshift Mr Bean style sandwich making, isn’t appealing to everyone. Most hotels only have a tiny bar fridge. And the costs of constantly ordering in or dining out (to your wallet and health) is a challenge for hotels to overcome. Consider adding larger fridges and simple food preparation options in rooms: a cutting board, cutlery, plates, bowl and tea towels. And a system for collection and cleaning. Kind of like a DIY room service.

  • Opening a meals area — eg. if your pool or a bar area is closed in winter, a small kitchenette is ideal, and maybe already installed or can be relocated. Common meal prep areas are…common, for digital nomads.

Put yourself in people’s shoes: if you had to stay somewhere for a month, making a sandwich, smoothie or salad could make you feel more at home.

  • Food — Part 2. Group meals.

Give guests the chance to meet each other. Things like a weekly group-contributed barbecue outdoors is easy, and perhaps already at your venue. Or hold a set dinnertime and menu on certain days. Ensure there is a host joining the group from the hotel (not just a server!) or from your local community, and bring in ways for people to get to know each other; speed networking, a local speaker, open mic, etc.

  • Upgrades.

Consider — in time, adding kitchen fitouts in some rooms, or the outdoor barbecue example. A lot of hotels are trying to retro-fit digital nomads into their spaces. Sorry. You weren’t designed for long-stay — some things just do not work as your space is currently designed. Remote work is here to stay — an ergonomic chair in rooms (or on the menu) is now a necessity.

  • Massage and Happy Hours.

This tip was from Kashlee Kucheran of Travel off Path a keynote speaker at our Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads conference. Hotels in Mexico and the Dominican Republic were serving the remote working crowd in the peak of COVID by modifying their offer with long-stay pricing. The good ones offered services professionals usually might use — eg. a chiropractor or midday massage. Holding after-work happy hours. If you don’t have the in-house staff, invite local providers in to do this. Call your drinks rep to sponsor the event. Anything. Give something more than the room key.

  • Learn. Ask questions. Jump on expat and digital nomad online groups. They’re on Facebook, LinkedIn, Slack…And offer something in return for people’s insights — like a discount. They may not stay a month, but a weekend getaway is appealing. And once they’re in, you’ll learn more about what can work.

A very long stay in a hotel may not be for everyone. If you are landing in a new place and want to get your bearings, some of the longstay deals hotels in Croatia are now offering are a real luxury way to start your digital nomad experience in Croatia. You might use it as a base to find your long-term rental, or just want to live it up for a month with room service, with somewhere like Dubrovnik as your office for the month.

I’m excited to see all these changes in Croatia, and happy to be working with the hotels who have been early adopters, reached out to us at Saltwater and seen how they can welcome this audience, and build the digital nomad community in places across Croatia.

It’s an interesting time for this sector in particular, and hotels are certainly an important part of elevating a city’s status.

If you found this interesting — and would like to learn more about how Saltwater can work with your hotel (through referring your long-stay accommodation package to our members or how to put in a coworking space), visit our website Saltwaternomads.com or reach out on LinkedIn.

This piece is modified from Tanja Polegubic’s blog on Medium. Reprinted with permission.

More on digital nomads:

Meet Melissa Paul, Owner of Croatia's First Digital Nomad Visa.

For the latest on digital nomads in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Hvar Digital Nomad Life with Kids: an Emerging Lifestyle

February 23, 2021 - After a long absence, one of the writing stars of the early days of Total Hvar is back - Ivana Zupan on Hvar digital nomad life with kids, an emerging lifestyle.

Three years ago, after living on Hvar for 10 years full time, I decided that I had to leave. Coming and going to the island was a great way to cope with its many downsides, and it allowed me to enjoy all the good there was. I was able to take my vacation during the summer months, for example. What a no-go for many islanders...

Back then, being a mother of an unschooler, I came to realise that without a like-minded community, I will not be able to keep my lifestyle, so I opted for city life to see if this would work out. We were lucky to find a great community in Bratislava. Our home-schooling study group - DOBROdruzstvo is the warmest, coolest and most amazing place for kids. Its fundamental sense for creating and nurturing relationships between people, building responsibility in our children’s own education, and emphasis on cooperation and solution finding is something which means a lot to me and to my daughter. I feel blessed and grateful for being a part of it for the last year and a half. The study group has a base in Bratislava, with a nice 'school' building and an outdoor space. Allowing the kids to come together and interact in a respectful environment. So it was, until recently.

In today’s world, there is probably not a country, where COVID measures would not affect our lives. There are different approaches with different results, some countries tend to be more strict than others, and the effects of such measures have been much debated. Slovakia is one of the countries where measures can be easily described as a Nazi-like experimentation camp. Forced COVID-testing once per week, or you are not allowed to go to work, to the bank, to the post office, send your kids to school etc. Not to mention, that masks are mandatory outdoors.

When this testing-madness was introduced back in October last year, I felt so angry as I was watching democracy in my homeland taking this huge slap in the face. More so that people were being obedient and supported it by attending the mass-testing. Very few of us found the strength to rebel against this blackmailing approach. Not an easy task in such a suffocating atmosphere, I must admit. I managed to stay sane by focusing on keeping our little homeschooling community going. Feeling that by continuing to create something new, while the old system was crashing down was the best I can do, given the circumstances.

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(A haven for kids to play hide and seek. Photo: Mgr. Daniela Bohata) 

Now we are back on Hvar. For two months now. I decided not to play along with the once-per-week-COVID-testing-or-you-are-not-allowed-to-live game. Back to unschooling. Looking for a small community with a few kids to join forces with other parents. Spending a lot of time outdoors with the kids. We are rediscovering the island and its hidden gems – like the Cliffbase in Sv. Nedjelja, where Katarina is slowly creating a digital nomad community. I hear there are still a few spots available.

The weekend trip to Cliffbase left me amazed about what a dedicated man can create at the end of the world. A wine cellar literally carved by hand in these huge rocks, just to name one. Miro Štec spent the last 20 years building this place. A lot of love and hard work went in.

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(A sunset at the Cliffbase in Sv. Nedjelja on Hvar. Photo: Mgr. Daniela Bohata)

I am not a climber, but I imagine it must be a heaven for them too. Not to mention I wanted to be 10 again to be able to play there at all those big rocks and hidden caves. Swimming in February, sharing food and stories with other mums. The flow there was simply perfect.

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{The steep path was a bit of a challenge for us, mothers, but the good old-fashioned cooperation helped, and we managed. Photo: Mgr. Daniela Bohata)

Daniela, the author of the beautiful photos came all the way from Makarska and now we are thinking about repaying her the visit and might be exploring Biokovo the next weekend. Let’s see how that one goes. In the meantime, you can find more about her work as a tour guide on her website.

If last year taught me something, it was not to plan that much. A huge lesson for me - the organised one. But, slowly, I am getting used to it - not knowing how this will progress, I am enjoying what I can while I can. So, here it is, a call to all digital nomads with kids out there. If on Hvar, get in touch.

If you are digital nomads with kids and planning on a stay on Hvar and would like to contact Ivana, email us on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject Hvar kids.

People from all over the world are already enjoying the Hvar digital nomad lifestyle.  Read more in Digital Nomad Life in Croatia: Jess and Thibaud, from San Francisco to Jelsa.

The Croatian government has now published guidelines on how to apply for the Croatian digital nomad visa.

Meet Melissa Paul, Owner of Croatia's First Digital Nomad Visa.

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Health Insurance for Digital Nomads in Croatia is Now Enabled

February 20, 2021 – Digital nomads in Croatia have the right to health care, as the issue of health insurance for digital nomads in Croatia is now regulated.

As HRturizam reports, on Thursday, the Government sent amendments to the Law on Compulsory Health Insurance and Health Care of Foreigners in the Republic of Croatia to the parliamentary procedure. They are harmonized with the Aliens Act to regulate the manner of exercising the right to health care for digital nomads. The amendments thus enable the realization of the health care right for digital nomads.

By the official definition, a digital nomad is a third-country national who is employed or doing business through communication technology for a company or their own company that is not registered in Croatia and does not do business or provide services to employers in Croatia and has been granted temporary residence in Croatia.

As Health Minister Vili Beroš explained, a digital nomad is not obliged to apply for compulsory health insurance. Still, they are obliged to bear the costs of using health care in a health institution, i.e., with a private practice health worker or other health care provider in Croatia.

By amending the Law on Foreigners, Croatia has introduced the concept of digital nomads who now have preferential tax treatment. Legal changes regulate the tax exemption for receipts of digital nomads – foreigners who work online from Croatia for other countries' employers.

The new Law on Foreigners for Digital Nomads prescribes a tax exemption for their income based on the status thus acquired. All this to facilitate their decision to choose Croatia as a place of residence and work.

This way of regulating their stay in Croatia assumes that digital nomads will spend their earnings here while living in our country and thus positively impact the domestic economy.

Temporary residence is granted for up to one year (possibly shorter). However, the temporary stay cannot be extended. A request for re-regulation of the digital nomad's stay may be submitted six months after the digital nomad's temporary stay expiration.

As Jan de Jong, the initiator of the introduction of visas for digital nomads, has repeatedly pointed out, when a digital nomad would spend at least 10,000 kunas a month on living in Croatia, which is more than realistic, for about 50,000 potential digital nomads (as many as there are in Bali), that would mean a revenue of about 500 million kunas a month into the Croatian economy.

At the moment, the publication of the online system for electronic submission of applications for digital nomads is still pending and will be done soon. But before that, the Ministry of the Interior announced the procedure for obtaining visas for digital nomads.

To read more about digital nomads in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 12 February 2021

CNN Features Croatia's Digital Nomad Opportunity

February 12, 2021 - The story is slowly spreading around the globe, as CNN features Croatia and its digital nomad opportunity.

Sometimes, just sometimes, things can go smoothly in Croatia, where forces align and things actually change - and change for the better. 

It is less than a year since I had a chat with Dutch entrepreneur Jan de Jong to talk about some interesting topics about Croatian tourism for a panel he was sitting on, among them the potential of digital nomad tourism. What happened next is known by anyone following the topic, as de Jong's persistence following his open letter to Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, asking for a digital nomad visa for Croatia, paid off. Just 44 days later, Plenkovic tweeted a photo of him and de Jong, announcing that he would introduce changes to legislation which would allow the visa to come into effect, which would have made Croatia only the second country in Europe (after Estonia) and the fifth in the world at the time, to introduce the visa. 

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Observers of the wheels of change in Croatian bureaucracy looked on with interest. Someone had clearly oiled the wheels, for not only were changes to the tax code and Aliens Act in place for January 1, 2021, but just 199 days after the PM's announcement, Croatian bureaucracy officially welcomed its first digital nomad. You can read all about her and how she did it in this TCN interview - Meet Melissa Paul, Owner of Croatia's First Digital Nomad Visa

Soonafter, the Ministry of the Interior published guidelines for those wishing to apply for the 12-month stay. A shiny new website and online application procedure is promised from next month. 

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The first digital nomad conference in Croatia was held in Dubrovnik in October. Organised by Tanja Polegubic of Saltwater Nomads, in partnership with the City of Dubrovnik, the Dubrovnik Tourist Board and TCN, it reached a worldwide audience, and even got a mention in The Washington Post. A followup project in Dubrovnik is scheduled to be announced shortly. 

And the international column inches continue, with CNN the latest to feature Croatia and the digital nomad lifestyle. In addition to the first successful visa applicant, Melissa Paul, the feature also talked to a nomad from Singapore in Zagreb, as well as a Mexican couple in Split. There are currently numerous applications being processed by Croatian immigration, from New Zealand, South Korea, USA and UK, to name but four countries. 

You can read the CNN article in full here

For the latest information about digital nomads in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section

 

 

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