Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Reflections on Croatia's First Digital Nomad Conference in Dubrovnik

October 20, 2020 - The first 2 days of Croatia's first digital nomad conference had plenty of stimulating content from all over the world. Some thoughts on Croatia's positioning and how to take advantage.  

One of the things I have noticed over the years in Croatia is how new ideas are usually met with skepticism or are immediately dismissed. It seems at times that positive initiatives are somehow almost not welcome. 

This time it is different. When I first started to write about the potential of digital nomad tourism in Croatia almost 18 months ago, the reaction was initially lukewarm, but it soon warmed up. A common perception was that digital nomads were bloggers and influencers (which they can be, but there are SO many more types of remote workers, from company CEOs to consultants), and the topic was not that interesting or significant. Two things happened to change the discussion. 

The first, of course, was the global pandemic. With so many people forced to work from home, the reality of remote working entered the national discussion for the first time properly.  Working from home has its pros and cons and is not for everyone, but the enforced new circumstances due to corona helped raise awareness about remote working in a way no campaign could have done. 

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The second thing was the focused campaign of Split-based Dutch entrepreneur Jan de Jong for the introduction of a digital nomad visa for Croatia. Just 44 days after an open letter to Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on LinkedIn,  the PM tweeted his assent, and legislation was introduced to Parliament the following day. 

During the summer. 

Croatian legislation and the adoption of a new idea has never moved that quickly in the 18 years I have lived in this beautiful country. People started to take notice. A prime minister reacting so proactively, the increased profile of remote working due to the pandemic, and the realisation that Croatia's current model of accidental tourism is not sustainable. Could digital nomad tourism be a new source of year-round tourism?

One of the things I am enjoying about this particular journey is how people's eyes are opened to the opportunity afforded by becoming a leading destination for digital nomads (my eyes included). The easiest way to explain it in a nutshell is very simple. 

More and more of us around the world are now working in the same office. It is called the Internet. There are only two variables in this global office - connectivity (3G, 4G, 5G) and time zones. Apart from that, we are all in the same office. When we leave the office, we go home. Many people want to go home to the village they are from, their family and friends. 

An increasing number of people want to go home to lifestyle and experiences, and the flexibility of the office is allowing them to choose locations all over the world to compliment their lifestyle.  

Croatia is the lifestyle capital of Europe. Great weather, safe, accessible, affordable, full of natural beauty, great food and wine, things to do, EU member, offering culture and authentic experiences in abundance. Why not go for a swim in the Adriatic before dinner when you leave the office, for example?

The quickest official apart from the prime minister to grasp the opportunity was the Mayor of Dubrovnik, Mato Frankovic. I met Mayor Frankovic in late July and pitched a concept from our partners, Saltwater, to hold an international digital nomad competition to help the city develop a hands-on strategy for digital nomad tourism, working with international nomads, whose experience and input could help shape the city's direction in this new opportunity. Having spent a lot of my time in official offices during my time in Croatia, I was impressed with the speed of the response from Dubrovnik.  Not only did Mayor Frankovic agree to our proposal (which will take place in April - more below), but he also declared that he was open to any new initiatives. 

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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)

Which is how 'Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads', the first digital nomad conference in Croatia, came about. 

It was quite an event, and one which will continue until the end of European Freelancer Week on October 25, but with the main focus on the two-day conference which ended on Saturday. 

I have already written about some of the highlights - the view from British Columbia and why Croatia has the potential to be the number one digital nomad destination in the world

Fresh from advocating for the nomad visa, Jan de Jong announced the formation of the Croatian digital nomad association, together with conference organiser Tanja Polegubic from Saltwater, and Karmela Tancabel. 

And - in possibly the announcement of the conference - Glavic Clinic offered free 12-month healthcare for digital nomads in Dubrovnik who have the visa. 

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(TCN with conference organiser Tanja Polegubic from Saltwater, Deputy Mayor Jelka Tepsic and Mayor Mato Frankovic - Photos Cyndia Burkhardt)

The Glavic Clinic free healthcare announcement certainly got people talking, and I will be interviewing the Glavic presenter at the conference, Nikolina Kurtela, shortly for more details, but the generous gesture pointed to an interesting path for Croatia in this new journey - the willingness of the private sector to get involved and make this new departure a success. Most people realise that tourism will not be the same again, and it Croatia can build the foundations of digital nomad services (which go far beyond a bed and decent WiFi), there is a real opportunity to develop the sector into one which will contribute significantly, both to the economy and the mindset. 

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Mayor Frankovic certainly confirmed his full support for the initiative during the close panel hosted by Tanja, which also included Dubrovnik Tourism Board director Ana Hrnic, Jan de Jong and myself. There is a lot of work ahead to prepare for the international digital nomad competition in the city in April, which will give the city and wider a region to better understand and adapt to the needs of this new breed of visitor while developing a strategy in partnership with international nomads over a one-month period. 

One of the key positives of the conference was the announcement of the Digital Nomad Association, which will be initially spearheaded by both Jan and Tanja. The new association will focus on five key areas of education, information, community, certification, and representation. In Jan and Tanja, the association could not have better ambassadors, and their combined vision and drive will steer this initiative in the right direction. 

One of the key areas for Croatia's potential success is going to be on pricing, particularly in accommodation. There is a tendency here to accept long-stay guests, only to terminate the contract in time for the tourism season. As more nomads come, and the community grows, the association's plans for accreditation of nomad-friendly accommodation will be important. 

Price will also be a factor in the visa, and here Croatia has a fantastic opportunity to get things right. As Kashlee Kacheran from Travel Off Path explained in her excellent presentation, the six nomad visas currently available around the world are wildly different in their conditions. The most expensive one, for example, is a whopping $3,000, while minimum income requirements of 3,500 euro a month in Estonia and $5,000 a month in Dubai, will exclude a significant number of would-be nomads. The terms are more favourable on Caribbean islands such as Anguilla, but with a population of just 15,000, one wonders how exciting life will be once the honeymoon beach and sunshine period has worn off. 

Details of the Croatian visa are still being worked out, and nothing has been officially announced yet, but my understanding is that the basic requirements will include that application can prove that they have no criminal record, health insurance, and a level of income. That amount will be significantly lower than Estonia, at least in my opinion, as this is a great opportunity to have social media savvy nomads who are not earning megabucks enjoying Croatia and telling the world about it - you can't beat word of mouth recommendation for effective marketing. In terms of timing, de Jong explained that several ministries are proactively working on the details, in coordination with one of the tax architects of the Estonian visa, and he expects the legislation to be wrapped up by the end of the year, with the visa available in the first quarter of 2021. 

There was quite a lot of comment in certain nomad Facebook groups that Dubrovnik is not a great digital nomad destination due to its high cost and with little to do. 

I disagree. 

One of the reasons we pitched the international digital nomad competition in Dubrovnik is that it currently suffers from an image problem of being a popular place to visit (I was genuinely surprised at the number of nomads who came to the conference, and even more who commented on social media that they were also nomading in or around the city) of being expensive with little to do outside the city walls. When the proposal was put together back in July, the monthly cost of living on Nomad List was cheaper in Dubrovnik than both Barcelona and Berlin - popular nomad hangouts.

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(Villa Ruza on Kolocep - just 30 minutes from Dubrovnik by regular ferry)

But seeing Dubrovnik as just the old town is a huge mistake in my opinion. You can get the very best out of this majestic city while enjoy a completely different - and significantly cheaper - experience close by, with easy access to the city whenever you want. One of the highlights of my summer was the wonderful island of Kolocep, just 30 minutes from Dubrovnik harbour by regular ferry, but a world away.  (Learn more in Arise Kalamota! Kolocep, 30 Mins from Dubrovnik But a World Away)

Look at Dubrovnik region, rather than just the city, and a whole new world opens up. From the diverse island beauties of the Elaphiti, Lastovo, Mljet and Korcula, UNESCO World Heritage Sites nearby in neighbouring countries such as the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro and Mostar's famous Old Bridge, to the wine roads of Peljesac and traditional Konavle way of life, there is so much more to Dubrovnik that the city walls and all that is contained therein. And, just as the tourism offer is diverse, so too is the makeup of the digital nomad. Those on higher incomes may be happy paying the coffee prices on Stradun, while those on a budget might settle for a longterm rental in a nearby village on the water., coming into the city on the regular bus service when the need arises. 

This brings us to one of the greatest things that Croatia has to offer digital nomads - choice. 

It is perfectly possible to spend time and have an excellent remote working experience in Croatia (and many do) without ever visiting Dubrovnik. On a budget? This single female digital nomad from Denver had an incredible six months in Osijek, one of the best places she had ever lived. Key pluses - price, people, nature, beauty, Internet, gourmet.   As thousands emigrate from Osijek as there is no perceived opportunity, here is someone who had an incredible and affordable experience having originated from the other side of the world. 

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(Living the digital nomad lifestyle at Panorama Penthouse Jelsa on Hvar)

The current nomad hot spot in Croatia I would say is Split, which offers arguably the best combination of lifestyle, expat community, accessibility to islands and social life. Zagreb, however is not far behind, and we have just rented our apartment on Hvar for the month of October (another perceived expensive destination) to two nomads from Holland, who arrived with their bikes. When they are not working and drinking coffee on the terrace overlooking the Adriatic under Hvar's famous sunshine, they are exploring the island by bike. An idyllic life. Not for everyone, of course, but highly suited to this type of nomad. 

Istria, Kvarner, Dalmatia, continental Croatia - filled with incredible and diverse experiences, some with different price tags, but all offering the same thing in an increasingly uncertain world - safety, authentic experiences and the unbeatable lifestyle. 

And with the 12-month visa imminent, why not discover the lifestyle that suits you, from rural Slavonia to Dubrovnik's Stradun. Or try it all at your leisure. The complete Croatian experience from East to West, North to South, is extraordinary.

For more on the emerging digital nomad scene in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN news section

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Poliklinika Glavic Announces Free 12-Month Dubrovnik Digital Nomad Healthcare

October 17, 2020 - There was one more surprise in the final presentation of the opening day of the Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads conference - an offer of free digital nomad healthcare for 12 months from Polyclinic Glavic.

It was quite a day.And it was almost over, the wine and snacks of the after party just a few minutes away. 

The first digital nomad conference in Croatia had had quite an opening day. Keynote speakers on the ground and online from various location all over the world had delivered some very thought-provoking presentations. There had been a digital nomad visa update from Jan de Jong, who also announced the founding of the Croatian Digital Nomad Association.  

Another highlight featured earlier today on TCN was Traveloffpath blogger Kashlee Kuteran and her inspiring presentation from British Columbia - "Croatia Has the Potential To Be World's Number 1 Digital Nomad Destination"

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(Dubrovnik Deputy Mayor Jelka Tepsic, left, with Polyclinic Glavic's Nikolina Kurtela)

There had been lots to process in a very stimulating day, with just a 10-minute presentation from a health clinic separating us from a well-earned glass of wine or three. 

How I underestimated the content of that presentation, as Nikolina Kurtela produced perhaps the most stunning commitment of the day. 

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Nikolina had a tough act to follow, coming as she did immediately after Kashlee's inspiring presentation from Canada. 

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A successful Dubrovnik clinic for over 25 years, and with a clinic in Zagreb and plans to open in Madrid and Amsterdam, Glavic specialises in rehabilitation therapy (learn more from their official website). Having expressed enthusiasm and support for the conference, it was left to Nikolina to show just how much Polyclinic Glavic intended to support the initiative to open the doors of Dubrovnik to digital nomads.

"We will offer free healthcare for any digital nomad in Croatia for 12 months if they have the digital nomad visa."

Wow!

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Not that Nikolina thinks there will be much requirement for a doctor while visiting Dubrovnik, for the excellent reasons listed above. 

As mentioned earlier, progress on the digital nomad visa is smooth, and instigator Jan de Jong expects all the legislation to be wrapped up by the end of the year, with the visa available in the first quarter of 2021. 

The Glavic free digital nomad healthcare commitment is an excellent addition to Dubrovnik's emerging digital nomad story. It is also symbolic of one more exciting aspect to this story - seeing how local businesses are becoming aware of the opportunity and looking at proactive ways that they can contribute. 

Nikolina has kindly agreed to an interview with TCN in which we will look at her kind offer in more detail. 

For the latest digital nomad news from Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section

Saturday, 17 October 2020

After the Visa, Jan de Jong Announces Croatian Digital Nomad Association

October 17, 2020 - Having pioneered the digital nomad visa in Croatia, Dutch entrepreneur Jan de Jong announces plans for a Croatia Digital Nomad Association.

One of the secrets of a happy life in Croatia, I have discovered over the years, is to surround yourself with positive people. With mass emigration, a generally negative media, and complaining in cafes an Olympic sport, it is easy to get sucked into a vortex of negativity. Surround yourself with positive 'can do' people, however, and Croatia looks an altogether different place - a country where its famed lifestyle is matched by positive entrepreneurs bringing positive change to this country. 

Two of my favourite beacons of positivity, Tanja Polegubic and Jan de Jong, are down here with me in Dubrovnik at the moment, both playing key roles in the first-ever digital nomad conference in Croatia. Quite by chance (or was it?), both featured in an article I wrote back in May called What Happens in Croatia When Mindset Goes from Default Negative to Opportunity Positive?

Both have been very active since then in the push to promote the huge digital nomad opportunity in Croatia. Dutchman de Jong has spearheaded the initiative for the Croatian digital nomad visa, which was endorsed by Prime Minister Andrej Plenkoviic and looks set to become a reality in the first quarter of 2021, with Australian returnee Polegubic has been leading the coworking and remote work agenda in Croatia with her Saltwater coworking business. Part of her digital nomad vision for Croatia resulted in the Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads conference which kicked off in the former quarantine complex of Lazareti, just outside Dubrovnik's famous walls, last night. 

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De Jong gave an update on the visa progress during his keynote speech at the conference, as well as answering the many questions that came his way both from the live audience and the global online Zoom audience. Discussions within the ministries are ongoing, but there is an urgency to wrap all the legislation by the end of the year, and de Jong expects the visa to become a reality during the first quarter of 2021. One of the tax architects of the Estonian digital nomad visa - the first in the world and currently the only one in Europe - is also helping the Croatian authorities with the discussions. 

Although the visa was expected to dominate de Jong's presentation, the Dutchman had an announcement to make - the imminent launch of the Croatian Digital Nomad Association, which he is co-founding with Polegubic and Karmela Tancabel.  

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The new digital nomad association will be an excellent addition to Croatia's emerging nomad scene, and with some of its most influential advocates the founders, it starts with a lot of credibility. 

The new association has five key aims:

  • Information - the new association website, soon to be launched, will be a hub of information for all digital nomad related issues and services. 
  • Accreditation and certification - the association will work with Croatian businesses which want to offer their services to digital nomads with the introduction of an accreditation and certification scheme. Accommodation providers, for example, will sign up to a code of conduct protecting nomads from sudden hikes in accommodation prices for the tourist season.
  • Education - the association will also be engaged in organising events around Croatia promoting the digital nomad agenda. One of the benefits of progressive digital nomads entering Croatian communities is the opportunity to give something back, and the potential to positively impact the Croatian mindset through nomad presentations and seminars in Croatian schools and universities is particularly exciting.
  • Community -  lifestyle means social life and community for the majority, and the association will be focused on building up a diverse and accessible community for incoming nomads.
  • Representation - this new digital nomad initiative is a new venture for Croatia, and there will inevitably be problems and frustrations on the road ahead. The Croatian Digital Nomad Association aims to be a bridge between the authorities and the nomad community to iron out problems and bottlenecks. With de Jong's access to the decision makers who are shaping the digital nomad visa - and their responsiveness to his requests - should prove a useful mechanism to ensure a smoother experience all round. 

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The association website is currently under construction and will be launched shorted. Stay tuned to the dedicated TCN digital nomad news section for the latest updates. 

Read more from the Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads conference - "Croatia Has the Potential To Be World's Number 1 Digital Nomad Destination"

 

Saturday, 17 October 2020

"Croatia Has the Potential To Be World's Number 1 Digital Nomad Destination"

October 17, 2020 - The first digital nomad conference in Croatia kicked off in Dubrovnik yesterday, an action-packed day including the presentation of the day from British Columbia, where the view is that Croatia has the potential to be the world's number 1 digital nomad destination. 

I don't think I have been involved in organising a conference before and so I was not sure quite what to expect. 

In truth, I didn't do that much regarding the actual organisation of Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads, the first dedicated digital nomad conference in Croatia. With superb support from Deputy Mayor Jelka Tepsic and Dubrovnik Tourist Board director Ana Hrnic, as well as the outstanding efforts of Tanja Polegubic from Saltwater and her VERY international team of volunteers (from Chile, Australia, New Zealand, UK, USA and, of course, Croatia), the first day more than exceeded expectations, both in terms of organisation and content.  

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A word on the setting. Symbolically located in the Lazareti, the original quarantine station for the city of Dubrovnik (the Dubrovnik Republic was the first to introduce quarantine way back in 1377 in Cavtat), the historic buildings have recently been renovated to high standard for multi-functional purposes, including conferences, exhibitions, concerts and - until October 25 as part of European Freelancer Week - a free coworking space for digital nomads.  

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Could there be a more perfect backdrop to hold a remote worker conference during a pandemic, with views out to the Adriatic and those famous Dubrovnik city walls? 

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The conference had to deal with its corona challenges, of course, both in terms of social distancing, as well as the technology. With strong global interest in the conference, and with several of the expert speakers unable to attend in person, pulling off a live conference with a combination of live and Zoom audiences and speakers was quite a technical challenge, but one which the AV team pulled off superbly. Svaka cast! 

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And there were certainly stars of the Croatian digital nomad world on show, including keynote speaker Jan de Jong, whose drive to introduce a digital nomad visa for Croatia has received the backing of the Prime Minister, and it should become a reality in the first quarter of 2021.  Much more on Jan and his update in another TCN article coming later today. 

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The biggest online audience was reserved for another keynote speaker, the NY Times bestselling author of 'Blue Mind', Dr Wallace J. Nichols, whose interactive session on wellbeing and productivity with Tanja Polegubic was a hit. 

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There was plenty of minute detail and facts presented, including a great session on Croatia, digital nomads and tax from KPMG. 

But the speaker who really caught the eye - well, my two eyes at least - was beamed in from British Columbia and put forward the case for Croatia with the potential to become the number one digital nomad destination in the world. Kashlee Kucheran runs the successful lifestyle and travel blow, Travel Off Path, with a current focus on providing the latest COVID-19 global travel updates. It has become essential reading for travellers and nomads, with over 3 million unique visitors and rising rapidly. 

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And the first feedback that Kashlee shared was that Croatia is 'absolutely buzzing' as a current digital nomad destination in her rapidly expanding community. 

It was fascinating to watch her presentation, for here was an experienced traveller monitoring the global situation offering a unique insight into the current digital nomad scene around the world, and why Croatia appears to be even more competitively positioned than ever its most ardent supporters had realised. And then the most surprising aspect of Kashlee's presentation as she explained all the reasons why Croatia is such a hot digital nomad destination - she has not managed to visit yet, although by the end of her presentation she had accepted an invitation to spend a month in Dubrovnik as part of the City of Dubrovnik/Durbovnik Tourist Board/Saltwater/Total Croatia News international digital nomad competition in April.  

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So what makes Croatia such a special digital nomad destination, according to Travel Off Parh?

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What I really liked about her presentation was the simple, step by step guide of the thought processes and considerations that were the backbone of the presentation. Providing services for digital nomads is a lot more complex than providing a bed and decent WiFi. Here are some of the main considerations to look at, all of which Croatia excels at - weather, cost, community, connection, ease, safety, culture.

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Corona changed the digital nomad landscape, with many countries no longer accessible. Additional considerations are also ones where Croatia compares favourably - freedom of movement within the country, how they handled their lockdown, and, of course, open borders 

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All of these factors, believes Kashlee, position Croatia as a potential leader in the digital nomad destination rankings, a position which will only be strengthened by the introduction of the digital nomad visa being championed by de Jong. 

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With Dubai announcing a digital nomad visa this week, there are now six countries ahead of Croatia offering this service, with Estonia currently the only one in Europe. Each country has its own criteria for the visa, and visa prices and minimum income requirements vary wildly. 

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As do the destinations. While life on a small Caribbean island like Anguilla sounds idyllic, it is perhaps more for a holiday than an extended stay for a nomad looking for activities, culture and a social life. If Croatia can gets its visa pricing and income requirements right, it will be superbly positioned to offer the best package, which will include its trump card - its fabulous lifestyle.  

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The global digital nomad view on what Croatia offers.  

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Croatia took a very different approach to other EU countries, and it remains open to all (with PCR tests required by non-EU/EEA countries), and its approach to American visitors makes it very appealing to nomads from North America.  

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So what are the benefits to Croatia for embracing this digital nomad wave? 

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 Year-round visitors investing in community, providing free marketing, and spending, spending, spending, while drip feeding the local mindset with progressive ideas and new opportunities. 

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What do the Croatian authorities need to do to take advantage of this huge economic gift? Not a lot. Focus on keeping the entry requirements flexible and deliver a digital nomad visa with reasonable conditions to benefit all. 

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Even without the visa, Croatia is buzzing, according to Kashlee. It was, she says, one of the top 10 COVID-19 destinations in the world even without the visa. Many digital nomads are die-hard travellers, and Croatia will be an increasingly interesting destination for them with so many countries off limits.  

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So how can businesses in Croatia prepare and adapt to the new digital nomad opportunity? Focus on the things that are important to these remote working visitors - affordable accommodation throughout the year (not being held hostage to tourist season prices), comfortable working environments, access to communities and lifestyle. And, of course, great WiFi. 

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Simple steps. Achievable steps. This is a really fantastic opportunity for Croatia, and there is already a significant waiting demand. The after-party discussions on the first day (many thanks to Polyclinic Glavic - who had a sensational announcement in the presentation following Kashlee, of which more on TCN soon - for the catering) were very lively, as nomads, speakers, organisers and local residents digested the best of a very exciting day. 

A great presentation from Kashlee, and we look forward to welcoming her to Dubrovnik in April. If she was this impressed by Croatia without even visiting, one wonders how she will be feeling after a month in the Pearl in the Adriatic. 

To follow the latest in the Croatian digital nomad journey, follow the dedicated TCN section

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Mayor Mato Frankovic Interview: Dubrovnik Welcomes Digital Nomads

October 15, 2020 - Dubrovnik Mayor Mato Frankovic has been very active promoting his city as a digital nomad destination. TCN catches up with him ahead of the Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads conference which starts tomorrow. 

One of the most interesting initiatives I have been involved with this year has been the push to develop Croatia as a destination for digital nomads. With more and more people working in the same office globally (the Internet), many of whom who are looking for lifestyle rather than living in the same village, and with Croatia the lifestyle capital of Europe, the potential to match up the two opens up some rather exciting new options for Croatian tourism. 

The imminent arrival of a digital nomad visa for Croatia (only the 5th in the world, and the second after Estonia) will make Croatia an even more viable option, and a debt of gratitude is owed to Dutch entrepreneur Jan de Jong for his successful campaign which resulted in Prime Minister Plenkovic tweeting his plan to introduce the visa just 44 days after receiving an open letter on Linked in from de Jong. 

Other officials have been very quick to react to the new opportunity as well, among them Dubrovnik Mayor, with whom I met in late July with a digital nomad concept for Dubrovnik. 

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Having had many meetings with public officials over the years in Croatia, I was not quite prepared for what happened next. Not only did the mayor grasp the essence of the opportunity, but he agreed in principle to support the initiative during the meeting, and the wheels were set in motion the very next day.  

The results of that meeting will be twofold - the conference starting tomorrow as part of European Freelancer Week, and an international competition for digital nomads to be guests of Dubrovnik next Spring.  

  1. Firstly, a quick word on the 2020 tourist season, which was the most challenging in living memory. As a flight destination and with no cruise ships, Dubrovnik suffered more than most. Can you give us a little insight into how it was, as well as any positives?

The start of the tourist season coincided with the ending of lockdown, so June and July weren't bad. We coped well with COVID-19. For 60 days we didn't have any cases of infection, and we had very good announcements for September and October. With the opening, we accepted the risk that more people could be infected, and when the first indications appeared that the UK would put us on the red list, I wrote to Prime Minister Johnson to look at the data by regions and counties. But after four weeks, we ended up on the red list even though we were doing everything in our power. The numbers of those infected were crucial.

  1. From undertourism to overtourism. The change in tourism from last year to this could not have been starker. How have the events of 2020 shaped your thinking regarding developing tourism in Dubrovnik in the future?

At the beginning of my mandate, I was faced with the challenge of an excessive number of guests, and at the end of my mandate, we are facing a shortage of guests. I see this whole situation as an opportunity for a fresh, clean start. I believe that we will get out of this story quickly and successfully, but also wiser for the future. I am optimistic and I think we can come back relatively quickly, this time with some new rules and thinking about sustainable tourism. I also believe the vaccine will be available in the first quarter of the next year, which will ultimately allow people to travel more easily and safely.

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(Press conference of October 12 for the Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads conference - Ana Hrnic, Dubrovnik Tourist Board Director, Mato Frankovic, and Tanja Polegubic of Saltwater)

  1. One of the new opportunities for tourism in Croatia is catering to the remote worker industry. Prime Minister Plenkovic has committed to introducing a digital nomad visa for Croatia which should be in place in early 2021. What are your thoughts on that, and what could this mean for Dubrovnik?

We fully support this initiative and see it as one of the directions for the future development of tourism in Dubrovnik. We are the first city in Croatia to turn to the digital nomad market. After the Prime Minister announced an easier stay for digital nomads and special visas for them in Croatia, Dubrovnik is organizing a conference on this topic. By signing an agreement with Hrvatski Telekom (Croatian Telecom) and the Ministry of Regional Development, we are bringing a much faster Internet network to Dubrovnik, which will cover a wider area, thus enabling what is very important for digital nomads, and that is fast Internet. Everything else is already here. 

  1. After this event in October, the City and tourist board of Dubrovnik have announced a digital nomad project partnership with TCN and Saltwater for another event next April. Can you tell our readers more about that?

This event in October will be some kind of an introduction to the whole story with digital nomads, for Dubrovnik and digital nomads to get to know each other. Next year we will go a step further. To popularize Dubrovnik as a destination for digital nomads, it is planned to organize an international competition in April. Dubrovnik would therefore host 10 winners as special guests of the city who would do their work from Dubrovnik and actively participate in shaping and developing strategies for developing these types of business.

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  1. What advice do you have for local Dubrovnik residents who are interested to know more about this digital nomad opportunity and perhaps reorientate their business/accommodation rentals in that direction?

All those who work in tourism are aware and must be aware that some things will change in the future. When it comes to digital nomads, it is important to offer better long-term rental opportunities, and the City is working to promote and provide other infrastructural conditions, such as high-speed Internet. This is, of course, an opportunity for everyone, not just for those dealing with accommodations. There are also caterers, as well as everyone else. Considering that these are the people who will stay here for longer, so they will need hairdressing services, health services, and maybe babysitting services if they are with their families, etc. 

  1. And finally, a message from Dubrovnik for any digital nomads considering moving temporarily to Croatia. Why Dubrovnik, and what are the key things you can offer digital nomads should they choose your city?

Digital nomads are very welcome in Dubrovnik. Here they have everything for a good quality of life, from a good climate and pleasant living space to the people of Dubrovnik who have always been hospitable to their guests. They also have excellent working conditions here, and the City of Dubrovnik is constantly working to improve the quality of life and stay in this city.

To follow the latest digital nomad developments in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section

  • If you would like to addend the conference, either virtually or in person, Tickets are available here. There are also a limited number of tickets available free for residents of Dubrovnik if you would like to learn more about the digital nomad lifestyle and opportunity. Regarding ticket purchase, please note that once you buy a ticket, you will be emailed your receipt and then a link and instructions on how to attend within. 
  • Event program and speaker information is on saltwaternomads.com/events
  • Speaker Bios: https://saltwaternomads.com/speakers/
  • If you would like to ATTEND IN PERSON - there are some remaining spots for digital nomads who are in or get to Dubrovnik for EFWeek. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Saturday, 10 October 2020

Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads: Tax Advice, Keynote Speakers, Early Bird Last Call

October 10, 2020 - Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads next week, as more details on the speaker line up are revealed, as well as a last call for Early Bird tickets. 

One of the things I really enjoy at TCN is taking a topic I believe in, pushing it forward, and then watching things develop through other like-minded people with better skill sets than my own. 

And nowhere is this more exciting currently than the buzz which is developing about the potential of digital nomad tourism and the imminent digital nomad visa. 

I have been writing about the digital nomad potential for Croatia for some time now with articles such as How Croatia is Becoming Increasingly Attractive for the Digital Nomad Lifestyle, but it was Dutch TCN reader Jan de Jong who really moved things forward after I sent him some articles on the subject to help him prepare for a tourism conference back in May. The rest is history, with Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic tweeting his response to Jan's open letter asking for a digital nomad visa for Croatia. As things stand, things look set for Croatia to become only the second country in Europe after Estonia to introduce the visa next year. 

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You can read Jan's latest LinkedIn update on the subject on LinkedIn, although if you want to get the real scoop of what is happening with the visa and digital nomad movement in Croatia in general, I advise you to tune in to Jan next week at the Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads European Freelancer Week conference, which is taking place from October 16 - 25.

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One of the other early pioneers of the digital nomad scene in Croatia is Tanja Polegubic, whose Croatia-based remote work and lifestyle business Saltwater is quickly become known as a go-to resource for remote workers coming to Croatia, especially those looking for a touch of Bali on a beach in Split. While others (including myself) talk about the potential in more general terms, Tanja has put more thought into the realities of where the digital nomad revolution could take Croatia, and I heartily recommend interested parties to read her excellent piece - 10 Ways Croatia Will Be At The Forefront of Countries with a Digital Nomad Visa (DNV).

Sometimes Tanja and Jan come together to brainstorm about Croatia's digital nomad future. And next week, you can join them!

Together with the City of Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik Tourist Board and TCN, Tanja and Saltwater are hosting a series of events as part of European Freelancer Week from October 16-25, which you can attend in person or online. Tanja has done an incredible job arranging speakers for the event, a combination of Croatian experts and global names from the world of remote work. 

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What I particularly like about the lineup is how full it is with practical information and real-life experiences, in addition to the chance to hear from and engage with the pioneers such as Jan and Tanja. One such example is taxation and digital nomads in the Croatian context. We are very grateful to Kristina Grbavac, Director of Taxation Services at KMPG Croatia, whose tax thoughts on the subject are sure to be of great interest. 

Having dealt with many local authorities over the years, I have to say that I have been very impressed by the engagement of the Dubrovnik authorities since we first approached them with our digital nomad concepts for the city back in July. Both Dubrovnik Mayor Mato Frankovic and Dubrovnik Tourist Board director Ana Hrnic will be speaking at the conference, and - together with Deputy Mayor Jelka Tepsic - the city is very focused on promoting this new opportunity. I look forward to our bigger initiative for Dubrovnik for digital nomads in April. 

The sessions will be a mixture of live presentations, as well as speakers tuning in from Istanbul, Baltimore and New York. The event will also be streamed at other EF Week events in other cities, further promoting Dubrovnik as a digital nomad destination. 

In addition to Jan, the other two keynote speakers are fabulous additions to the programme. Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, a marine biologist and author of the NY Times bestseller 'Blue Mind' will be discussing Wellbeing and Productivity, especially as it relates to digital nomad life. You can learn more and support the work of Dr Wallace J. Nichols over on Patreon. We are also thrilled to be joined by Kashlee Kucheran of the successful travel blog TravelOffPath.com. Kashlee will be talking about how Croatia can stand out, trends, digital nomad demographics, and how the tourism sector is pivoting to cater to digital nomads.

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  • Tickets are available here, including details of early bird tickets. There are also a limited number of tickets available free for residents of Dubrovnik if you would like to learn more about the digital nomad lifestyle and opportunity. Regarding ticket purchase, please note that once you buy a ticket, you will be emailed your receipt and then a link and instructions on how to attend within. PLEASE NOTE THAT THE DEADLINE FOR EARLY BIRD TICKETS IS MIDNIGHT TONIGHT.
  • Event program and speaker information is on saltwaternomads.com/events
  • Speaker Bios: https://saltwaternomads.com/speakers/
  • If you would like to ATTEND IN PERSON - there are some remaining spots for digital nomads who are in or get to Dubrovnik for EFWeek. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

See you in Dubrovnik! It promises to be an exciting meeting of minds, exploring new opportunities for tourism in Dubrovnik. 

For the latest on the Croatian digital nomad scene, follow the new TCN dedicated section

 

Thursday, 8 October 2020

Croatia Through the Eyes of a Digital Nomad: Your Daily Dose of Vitamin Sea

October 8, 2020 - Croatia offers the best lifestyle in Europe, and with a digital nomad visa imminent, remote workers are sensing the healthy lifestyle opportunity - a lifestyle which comes with a daily dose of Vitamin Sea. Continuing our look at Croatia through the eyes  of a digital nomad with Cyndie Burkhardt. 

What do two Scots, two Koreans, and two Americans have in common? Love for turquoise water, spectacular coastlines, and great food—while sailing in Croatia.

When a friend mentioned sailing as his single agenda item in Croatia, it struck me as the perfect opportunity to indulge both his request and my desire for an elegant sea excursion. Walking past mega yachts docked just past Split’s Riva, I’d had numerous fantasizes about how cool it would be to board one, sail grandly through the Adriatic, and sip champagne for days, all the while following Beyoncé’s footsteps through the Adriatic and channeling my inner fabulousness. Oh yes, a trip would be booked.

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A friendly greeting awaits Nera’s guests.

Our day sail began on a ferry, in Split. The plan was to meet John and Lyn McMorland, the Scottish couple who own Sunburst Sailing, on Brač and set off from there on their 42-foot yacht, Nera. Adventure began before we ever met them. As the ferry pulled up to Brać I noticed people standing on deck. I had wanted to ride outside and I went to investigate. One of the crew said, “If you’re getting off, go now.” What? Where were we? There was no announcement. I looked up and saw a sign—Milna. Yikes, this was my stop! I told the crewman I was getting off but had to go inside and get my friend. “Hurry!” he barked. I ran inside and the boat started pulling away. We raced to the ramp, watched the gap growing between us and land, and we jumped. The crew yelled and we giggled. We were stunned at the close call but glad to have averted a second casualty this morning. The first—the friend who originally suggested sailing overslept and completely missed the ferry. We were supposed to be a threesome and now we were just two.

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Setting sail to cruise across the Adriatic.

The Nera was docked a short distance away and Lyn greeted us as we walked over. We hopped onboard, met our companions—a newlywed Korean couple, and the yacht left. After setting sail, Lyn offered us Prosecco then went below deck to prepare fresh canapes for a mid-morning snack. Not a single cloud dotted the sky and a light wind seemed ideal for sailing. This is what I’m talkin’ about! That silly smile of sheer bliss started creeping onto my face and I wasn’t even into my swimsuit yet.

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Lyn discusses a day in the life of sailing. 

We stopped at several coves during the day and swam in crystal-clear water that was every shade of turquoise, sky blue, and green. Reflections from the sky and warm streaks of sunlight added gorgeous nuances of color and depth. I brought my goggles but jumped at the chance to trade up for John’s snorkel gear. Below water, a teeming bed of sea life and a rocky terrain was captivating. Above, different sounds of water and waves blended in with sightings of butterflies, bees, and seagulls.

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Refreshing sips of Prosecco fill the morning ride. 

Shifting from underwater explorer to sun worshiper, I settled onto a raft and felt the sun warm my body. Before long, a miniature unicorn-shaped floaty came toward me, it was holding a cup of cold Prosecco. Yesss! John grabbed my camera and captured the scene while we all laughed out loud. Back onboard, an amazing smell wafted up through the galley. John, who is a trained chef, was preparing vegetable risotto topped with Dalmatian ham for lunch. The table was silent as we all enjoyed the meal. Dessert was tiramisu followed by a finisher of rogač. Everything was fresh and delicious.

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Snorkeling in a small cove. 

Throughout the day we sailed past different places of interest. Mrduja is an islet that sits between Brač and Šolta. It holds a charming history concerning an annual tug of war over ownership rights to this tiny, uninhabited land. Fishing boats from both sides line up with ropes tied between them and to Mrduja itself. The spectacle is seeing who pulls the hardest. The Three Sisters Tower at Bobovišća sits on the family residence of Croatian poet Vladimir Nazor, who built it in 1937 to memorialize his three sisters.

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A classic Dalmatian coastline—limestone and pine trees.

Talking with John and Lyn, it’s clear they’re in love with Croatia and this sailing life. They go the extra mile to treat guests like VIPs—thinking of every detail (hot shower and fluffy towels), making the experience memorable (fully catered, Croatian food and wine), and creating an easy atmosphere (relax under the shaded canopy or on the open sunny bow). Beyond being excellent hosts, they’re a good team. They’re also people you want to share stories and a meal with. I could get used to this.

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The author is served.

Lying on deck beneath full sails that blew us back to Split, I closed my eyes, filled my lungs with fresh salty air, and rocked comfortably in the undulating rhythm of the sea.

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The captain in the galley preparing lunch.

A rough wave pushed us to one side and my leg shifted in the opposite direction to brace me. With that movement, my phone slid out from between my legs and tumbled toward the sea. The only thing that saved it from the depths of the Adriatic was a small lip on the edge of the boat. From his captain’s position, John immediately saw what happened and yelled, “Quick, grab it!” I was already on my feet and my heart skipped a beat as I leaned down hoping to make the catch before the next wave. I can’t even think about the alternative…

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Vegetable risotto topped with Dalmatian ham. 

Back in Split, John and Lyn dropped us at the yacht dock and we waved goodbye as the Nera headed back home to Brač. The yacht may be (slightly) smaller than Beyoncé’s but she’s mighty. I felt spoiled rotten and I loved every minute.

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Mrduja inspires a famous annual tug of war between Brač and Šolta.

Learn more about Sunburst Sailing and schedule a tour.

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Three pillars make up the Three Sisters Tower on Bobovišća.

Story and photographs ©2020, Cyndie Burkhardt. www.photo-diaries.com.

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Captain John commands the wheel.

You can follow the latest from Cyndie's column, Croatia Through the Eyes of a Digital Nomad here.

For the latest news about digital nomads in Croatia, including that sought-after nomad visa, check out the dedicated TCN digital nomad news section

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Crystal clear turquoise water twinkles.

For the latest travel info, bookmark our main travel info article, which is updated daily

Read the Croatian Travel Update in your language - now available in 24 languages.

Join the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community.

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Tired of Working From Home? Rent a Luxury Mobile House on Krk!

October 7, 2020 - Imagine leaving the walls of your home and doing your job sitting on a terrace overlooking the Adriatic Sea. It seems impossible, but this is exactly what the Valamar tourist chain offers. You can now rent a luxury mobile house on Krk for a month (or more).

The coronavirus pandemic brought many changes, so many were forced to bring their jobs from the office to their home. For those who are tired of working from home in the past few months, Valamar offers a solution.

"Move to the island of Krk and spend the autumn and winter of your dreams," is their new slogan, which offers guests monthly rent of luxury cottages with excellent internet connection for all digital nomads who wish to work from the Croatian coast.

"Mediterranean greenery and the endless blue Adriatic Sea are the best motivation to move your office to your green haven on the island of Krk this fall or winter," reads their website.

The mentioned houses are part of the 4-star Ježevac Premium Camping Resort near the town of Krk, the number of which is limited, and the minimum stay is 30 days. Monthly rent costs from 450 to 550 euros, depending on the size of the house.

 

 

 

Pleasant and useful

Looking at this offer, the question arises – why would such accommodation capacity be available for rent only during the summer? Tourism is unquestionably the most affected sector during the coronavirus pandemic, so tourism workers must constantly find new ways to attract guests, especially in the offseason.

Also, for people who want to travel and visit tourist destinations even during the pandemic, the important thing is a sense of security, and digital nomads are looking for one – a perfect lifestyle, whether it is a house overlooking the sea or the mountains.

Valamar very quickly recognized the need to strengthen products and content outside the main summer season, so these cottages can be rented from September 30, 2020, to March 30, 2021.

And so that visitors can take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, Ježevac Premium Camping Resort offers a holiday without cooking and going grocery shopping with free delivery of fresh local products and delicious dishes through the online store Valfresco.

There is also a Multimedia Game Lounge, a fun area with video games, as well as a multi-purpose sports field. Pets are also welcome at the resort, whose stay costs 2.5 euros per day.

 

For the latest travel info, bookmark our main travel info article, which is updated daily

Read the Croatian Travel Update in your language - now available in 24 languages

Join the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community.

 

 

Monday, 5 October 2020

Working From Home Erases Line Between Working Hours and Private Time - Round Table

ZAGREB, October 5, 2020 - The Bridge party organised a round table on Monday on the topic "Working from Home: Do we have the right of disconnect", which discussed amendments to the Labour Act due to the coronavirus, where a lot of people work from home and the line between working hours and private time disappears.

The discussion was organised following announcements that changes would be made to the Labour Act. A lot of workers work from home due to the coronaviurs situation and in many cases have to work more and need to be available all the time.

"It has been seen in practice that work from home often leads to an overlap between working hours and private time and that the fine line is being moved or erased completely," president of the Independent Croatian Unions, Kresimir Sever, said.

He explained that an employee's working hours with an employer are clearly defined, but if that employee starts working from home, a good portion of employers abuse that and expect employees to work a lot more, leaving less time for leisure activities.

"Until such time that that system is put in order, we cannot talk about real remote work," said Sever.

He added that times of crises are not a good time to amend laws.

"Laws should not be adapted to crisis situations, but should be regulated during normal times, emphasising that a  crisis may occur," he said.

He warned that the crisis situation is being exploited to introduce a more flexible labour system in Croatia which is unacceptable for the unions, and all under the guise that remote work has to be regulated.

"The Labour Act is extremely flexible in Croatia. It allows employers a wide spectrum to arrange labour relations. The thing that would provide real flexibility is collective bargaining and there is very little of that in Croatia," Sever believes.

Viktor Gotovac from the Labour and Social Law Department at the Faculty of Law does not agree that the law is good as it does not regulate remote working.

"That means that the law is not good. We have student contracts, employing pensioners, author's contracts, everything just not to change the law... I worked form home after the earthquake and my employer immediately cut off my travel allowance, but I was not paid for using my own premises, resources," Gotovac underlined.

He did not agree that the coronavirus caused the problem but rather pointed out what needs to be changed for a better legislative framework which would regulate wages, working hours and leave.

 

For the latest travel info, bookmark our main travel info article, which is updated daily

Read the Croatian Travel Update in your language - now available in 24 languages

Join the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community.

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

The Guardian Highlights Croatian Digital Nomad Visa, Progress Update

September 30, 2020 - As the story spreads slowly in the mainstream global media, a Croatian digital nomad visa update. 

Whisper it quietly, but the story is gathering pace and attracting increasing international attention and coverage. 

Just 44 days after Split-based Dutch entrepreneur Jan de Jong invited Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic to introduce digital nomad visa for Croatia in an open letter on LinkedIn back on May 11, 2020, Plenkovic announced his government's intention to introduce the visa, following a meeting with de Jong. The topic was appended to the updating of the Foreigners Act and introduced to Parliament the next day. 

Do Jong has been very active in meetings with no less than six ministries since that commitment, as Croatia moves with uncharacteristic bureaucratic speed to introduce the visa, making it only the second country in Europe (after Estonia) and the fifth in the world to offer the nomad visa. With Croatia one of the top tourism and lifestyle destinations in Europe, strong remote worker interest in Croatia has so far been somewhat restricted by Croatia's famous bureaucracy. Non-EU residents can currently only stay for 90 days at a time, but the new visa will allow a 12-month stay for bona fide nomads, who can tick a checklist of requirements, include health insurance, no criminal record, and proof of a certain level of income (this is expected to be lower than Estonia).

I spoke to de Jong earlier today, who said that things are very much on track. His latest meeting last week was with the Ministries of the Interior and Finance, together with a tax expert who helped draft the Estonian digital nomad visa law, and the Croatian tax authorities. Discussions went well, and his feedback from the ministries is that all issues should be solved by the end of the year, paving the way for the introduction of the visa in 2021. 

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The announcement has caused plenty of interest among the global nomad community, and it has led to various initiatives around Croatia to prepare the country for this new type of tourism, including the TCN/Saltwater partnership with the City of Dubrovnik and Dubrovnik Tourist Board announced earlier this week (read more in Dubrovnik Embraces Digital Nomads: October EF Week Events, April International Competition). 

The new initiative received perhaps its biggest coverage so far yesterday, as The Guardian highlighted Croatia as one of the first five countries to open its borders to digital nomads in The rise of the 'half-tourist' who combines work with a change of scene.

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And it was nice to see a mention of TCN in the accompanying links...

The digital nomad visa initiative has been entirely a private one until it reached the Prime Minister's desk (you can learn more about the journey here), and the considerable media coverage generated has all been organic. 

It is part of a growing trend of concrete results which are coming from writing about the positives and opportunities in Croatia, which the entrepreneurial sector are quietly pushing forward. 

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Another excellent example of this also involves de Jong and Dalmatian business partner Jerko Trogrlic, who recently started an initiative to combine Dutch technology and know-how with Croatian labour (creating 72 jobs) to grow tomatoes on a 5-hectare plot in an economically depressed part of northern Croatia (read more in CROP Croatia: Jerko Trogrlic and Jan de Jong to Make Croatia Plant Again). 

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Within days of announcing the initiative on LinkedIn, de Jong had received more than 5 million euro of investment offers from all over the world.  And the international agriculture media has already picked up on the story, see above. 

There are so many positive initiatives taking place in Croatia at the moment. And if we can start to slowly move away from the default negative mindset and start to celebrate successes rather than keep them under the radar (a Croatian can forgive you anything but success is one of the great truisms here), the arrival of Croatia 2.0 will be all the quicker, and there will be more investments, success stories and jobs created. 

For the latest in the digital nomad world in Croatia, follow the new TCN digital nomad news section

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