Monday, 21 June 2021

Martina Bienenfeld: Zagreb will Become a Desirable Digital Nomad Destination

21 June 2021 –  The Zagreb Tourist Board (TZGZ) organises the first-ever Zagreb Digital Nomad Week from the 21st to 27th of June after which the project called Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador will start. The latter will enable selected digital nomads to spend a month in Zagreb for free and share their experiences. A closer look at why Zagreb is a desirable digital nomad destination. 

As translated from Seebiz.eZagreb Digital Nomad Week 2021 and the Digital Nomad Ambassador project TZGZ is organising together with Saltwater Nomads (a company specialising in organising digital nomads' stays in Croatia) and Total Croatia News (media portal).

It is these programs focusing on digital nomads that were the motivation for our conversation with Martina Bienenfeld, the head of the Zagreb Tourist Board.

SEEbiz: what was the main motivation behind deciding for the Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador program?

Bienenfeld: Last year changed the way of life for many people. The pandemic, which made working from home common, accelerated the trend of digital nomads and we now have generations of employees that are no longer bound by working hours, but wish to enjoy a more flexible way of life. Also, at the beginning of this year, the new Law on Foreign Nationals came into power. Under it, digital nomads can be allowed to stay in Croatia for up to a year on a non-resident basis. Zagreb, being the capital city, didn't want to miss out on this growing opportunity, so we've decided to organise Zagreb Digital Nomad Week and the Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador project.

SEEbiz: it is no secret many fast-expanding IT companies have their headquarters in Zagreb. Is this one of the reasons Zagreb is perceived as a destination for digital nomads? What are the prerequisites Zagreb needs to fulfil to become an attractive and desirable destination for this demographic?

Bienenfeld: That certainly is one of the reasons, but there are numerous factors that influence the choice of a destination. Above all, digital nomads are staying within one place as long as they can and want, and because they are working they value quick and reliable internet connection more than anything, which means the destination needs to have good quality telecommunication infrastructure. After that, they need good value for money and accessibility of co-working spaces. Nice weather is also high on the list. Also, proximity or at least easy accessibility of the destination is one of the conditions. Zagreb offers all these things. In this sense, the level of attractiveness of Zagreb is high and I believe there is potential to grow further, especially seeing how we are one of the first countries to regulate this type of work by law.

SEEbiz: Do you believe digital nomads are just a trend that is, among other things, here because of a global pandemic or is it something that will remain after this situation has subsided?

Bienenfeld: Assessments and research suggest more and more people will want to work independently like this in the future. In other words, they will want the freedom to travel and the ability to work where ever they are at any given time. Therefore, I believe this is not a passing trend, but a new style of working and living that will remain long after this situation.

SEEbiz: The Croatian Tourist Board (HTZ) digital nomads campaign “Croatia, your new office!” garnered great results in the first two months. What are you expecting from the projects taking place in Zagreb?

Bienenfeld: I’m expecting Zagreb to further improve its position as a desirable destination for digital nomads. Croatia’s capital can surely be positioned as a centre for digital nomads and draw in foreigners coming for work and leisure.

SEEbiz: Zagreb has been recognised as a city break destination. In spite of all the restrictions, Zagreb was a good host for Croatia Rally, and then there is also the World Rowing Cup. Is sport, professional or recreational, one of the ways of attracting digital nomads?

Bienenfeld: As I mentioned before – you always need a combination of different factors in order to attract digital nomads. Generally, when speaking of sporting events, we have to be aware they are one of the most important ambassadors of any country or the city in which they are being held. We at TZGZ are especially pleased Zagreb hosted such huge sporting events – World Rally Championship and World Rowing Cup – during these times of uncertainty. This points to the significance of our city in the segment of sports tourism as a special part of the travel industry which contributes to the creation of new quality and competitive position in the travel market. Namely, events like these cast a spotlight on the host destination and make organisers of other similar events across the world consider organising their future events in the same city or country. In the same way, the effects of such a synergy of sports and tourism add to the popularity of the destination hosting these events and represent one of the best ways of promoting Zagreb as well as Croatia.

SEEbiz: Zagreb Tourist Board saw a focus on developing new digital platforms proving successful. How do you view the importance of digitalisation in tourism?

Bienenfeld: Tourist Boards always kept pace with new technological trends and implemented them readily into their projects. We need only remember Zagreb Be There app developed in now distant 2014, which was a multiple award-winning treasure hunt sightseeing app, or QR code city tour implemented in 2013. The pandemic and, unfortunately, Zagreb earthquakes, taught us the importance of being able to respond well and quickly to new situations, follow trends by using digital tools and platforms, and adjust our tourism offer to new conditions. We have turned to digital innovations that allow us to add value, attractiveness, but also visibility to our tourism offer. A recent example is the interactive AR project Virtual Christmas Windows, in which we were first in Croatia to apply augmented reality technology in our Christmas festival awareness campaign. Digitalisation in tourism is imperative today. Tourism and technology are tightly intertwined and travel is unthinkable without digital technology.

SEEbiz: The Around Zagreb project and cooperation of the Zagreb Tourist Board and Zagreb County Tourist Board is one of the first big steps in strategic destination development in Croatia because the focus is on quality content and finding new benefits for tourists, seeing how it promotes quality tourist-focused content in Zagreb’s surroundings or only half an hour from the city centre. Zagreb and its surroundings as a unique green destination, is this the strategy for the post-pandemic period?

Bienenfeld: I’m glad you’ve asked me that as we are just starting with our refreshed campaign in cooperation with the Zagreb County Tourist Board, and soon we will go ahead with Krapina – Zagorje County as well. Project Blizu grada, blizu srca (Close to the City, close to Heart) / Around Zagreb is created with a long-term goal and vision and we would like to have started it even without the pandemic situation. It is natural for Zagreb and its surrounding area to promote together because guests do not care about our administrative borders. They are after quality and interesting content. The pandemic in a sense helped the campaign along because guests are now, more than ever, searching for the options of spending time in nature, on fresh air, surrounded by greenery, all combined with diverse local culture and gastronomic offer.

Last year, most of the visitors to www.aroundzagreb.hr came from Croatia (40%), but also from the markets where the campaign was run – Slovenia (35%), Austria, Germany, and Bosnia and Herzegovina (25%). Interestingly, we are seeing a rising interest from the American market as well, even though there was no advertising campaign specifically aiming at that market, which represents a guideline for future activities. Inspired by the success of the campaign so far, recording over 37 million views, we have improved our platform and are showing it to the important markets again. With this in mind, along with refreshed visuals and itineraries, we have started a new section called “Did You Know?” which showcases various interesting points from our surrounding areas. Besides that, we also have cooking videos featuring authentic local cuisine recipes from Zagreb and the surrounding area. They are made by the famous Croatian chef Mr. Almo Catlak. He set out to present local delicacies to a wide audience with an emphasis on tradition with a bit of a modern approach. We are now starting the campaign for the markets of Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Serbia, and Germany and soon we will be updating it with Krapina – Zagorje County materials. I would hereby also like to give my thanks to all involved in this.

SEEbiz: Zagreb is also an airplane destination. What effects do you expect as a result of RyanAir coming to Zagreb Airport, or how important in this respect is the survival of the national airline company?

Bienenfeld: We welcome all new airlines coming to Zagreb and will be glad to see the RyanAir airplane “tales” among those of other companies already landing in our city. This will contribute to the further positioning of Zagreb as a city break destination and will make it more accessible to interested visitors. As far as the national carrier is concerned, we mustn’t forget it was Croatia Airlines that connected us to the rest of the world when all other companies stopped flying here during the toughest pandemic restrictions. In this sense, I wouldn’t compare these two airline companies because their profiles and business models are vastly different.

SEEbiz: We know we are living in very uncertain times, but at the end of the interview, let me ask you: What is your vision for the long-term tourism development of Zagreb.

Bienenfeld: We need to keep in mind it will take a few years after the pandemic for tourism to bounce back. The earthquake made things even more difficult because it damaged a variety of buildings, some of which contribute to tourist offers or architectural and urban distinctions of the city. The state of tourism will depend on the organisation and readiness of the destination to adapt to new conditions and provide solutions. Further development of tourism in a smart, responsible and sustainable way will depend on how much are we as a sector prepared for new challenges. From the perspective of tourism, it is clear more and more travellers take into account ecology and sustainability, and we, therefore, need to apply sustainable concepts in order to potentially make them into one of the key promotional factors.

Also, it is important to activate underused tourist resources and continue to develop key tourist products of the destination. With the goal of defining a stronger position in the travel market in this context, it is necessary to support innovative and creative development initiatives that contribute to further building of the destination as a centre for urban, regenerative, and cultural scene and encourage dispersion of tourist activities. For the MICE segment we are expecting a slower recovery, but we need to continue communicating with the organisers of conferences and events and position Zagreb as a regional centre for business meetings, gatherings, and conferences. I see additional potential in health tourism, sports and active tourism, and of course food tourism. In any case, what is important and we’ll continue to insist on is that Zagreb is and always was a people’s city.

For more on Digital Nomads in Croatia, click here

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Tourist Board Director Martina Bienenfeld on Zagreb Digital Nomad Week, Ryanair, Tourism in Pandemic

May 25, 2021 - After the successful conclusion of the Dubrovnik Digital Nomad-in-Residence Program (DNIR), the remote work focus moves to Zagreb next month, with Zagreb Digital Nomad Week 2021 & Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador Project starting on June 21. The project is a collaboration between Zagreb Tourist Board (who are financing the project), and Saltwater Nomads and TCN, co-organisers of both Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads (the first conference of its kind in Croatia in October 2020), and DNIR, in association with the City of Dubrovnik and Dubrovnik Tourist Board. 

TCN caught up with Zagreb Tourist Board Director, Martina Bienenfeld, to discuss the project and the wider digital nomad opportunity for the Croatian capital, as well as a range of other topics.

2020 was a horrendous year for global tourism with the pandemic but Zagreb also had to deal with the devastating March 22 earthquake. Tell us a little about the challenges of running the city's tourism in these circumstances.

I would say last year has been the most challenging for everyone, especially in the travel industry. At times, for all of us living in Zagreb, it seemed like we were in the middle of an American blockbuster movie, one I certainly wouldn't like to watch again. But we have not surrendered, so the challenges resulted in new projects, in adapting to the situation and creating a new quality.

I am especially glad to see that most of our tourism service providers adjusted to the new circumstances as much as possible, and that they came up with various innovations and services that followed the “new normal” routine very closely. The focus should be on sustainable tourism through an adequate strategy for the development of safe and health aspects of the stay in the destination, and more than ever, on cooperation, support and mutual trust of all tourism stakeholders.

Only through coordinated action we can expect a better and more competitive tourist product and its greater sustainable and positive social effects.

I follow Croatian tourism a lot, and Zagreb has been without question the most proactive tourist board responding to the crisis. The Around Zagreb website, campaigns such as 'Zagreb Loves You' and; ‘From Zagreb Balconies', as well as pulling off Advent in Zagreb despite the restrictions, kept Zagreb tourism very visible in a difficult year. Tell us a little about this strategy.

Thank you for saying that! Yes, we were working under entirely different circumstances than previous years, which was incredibly difficult, but we didn’t want to surrender. Simply, we had to be prepared for ad hoc reactions and possible last-minute changes because the times were really uncertain, and they still are. Therefore, in accordance with the recommendations and decisions by the authorities, we prepared suitable events and adjusted our online and offline campaigns.

The pandemic, and in Zagreb, unfortunately, earthquakes have taught us how important it is to respond in a very short period, react quickly to new situations, follow trends using digital tools and platforms and adapt the tourist offer to new conditions. In this sense, the Zagreb Tourist Board developed and supported projects that allowed us to create new outdoor content with emphasis on ambiental, non-invasive events, and, also, on virtual and interactive content for our potential visitors.

And now Zagreb is one of the early movers in the digital nomad tourism sector. Tell us firstly why you believe that the Croatian capital is a great destination?

The vibrant Croatian capital Zagreb is becoming one of the most popular European city-break destinations in this part of the EU. Through an eclectic mix of the Central European and Mediterranean lifestyles, it pairs well the Austro-Hungarian tradition and warm Southern flavor. Whether for a weekend or a longer stay, Zagreb will charm visitors with its natural allure, exceptional cultural heritage, but also with modern and digitized services.

Zagreb is a home to a large number of co-working spaces, as well as hotels, hostels and private accommodation with an excellent internet connection. Add to that – unspoiled nature in the city center, markets with local, homemade products, beautiful surroundings and proximity to Croatia’s famous coast and national parks – Zagreb is definitely the place to be! The journey through Zagreb is always captivating, but the biggest value is its atmosphere and the people who never allow you to feel alone. Zagreb has a story to tell and especially for digital nomads.

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You recently announced Zagreb Digital Nomad Week & Zagreb Nomad Ambassador Project. Tell us more.

Last year changed the lifestyle of many people… The pandemic that has made working from home quite common, has further accelerated digital nomadism and now you have generations of employees who are not tied to the workplace and want to enjoy a flexible lifestyle as much as possible. At the beginning of this year, the new Law on Foreigners came into force in Croatia, according to which digital nomads can be granted temporary residence for up to a year. Zagreb as Croatian Capital didn’t want to miss this growing opportunity and therefore, we are thrilled to be able to put the digital nomad opportunity in the spotlight through Zagreb Digital Nomad Week & Zagreb Nomad Ambassador Project.

Who is ZDNR week aimed at, and what are you hoping to achieve? 

Zagreb Digital Nomad Week will take place from June 21-27, with a combination of workshops, presentations, social and tourism activities focusing on the key themes. I hope ZDNR will provide a comprehensive and stimulating week for anyone engaged in the digital nomad lifestyle and make them put Zagreb on the list as their next place to work remotely.

Local education and participation is key to the success and development of the digital nomad tourism opportunity. What do you see as the key challenges to getting the local community and tourism providers on board for this new type of tourism with its specific needs? 

Even before the term digital nomad has emerged, we always had digital nomads. Digital nomad is not a tourist in the sense of a definition, but a national of another country who is employed and works online for its own or another company that is not registered in the Republic of Croatia through. In this sense, I see a challenge in the preparation and adaptation of accommodation facilities to this type of visitors to our city, since they will definitely need to rent their living space for a longer period of time. Also, it is important to inform the local population about the existence of digital nomads in their communities in order to dispel stigmas such as "these are people who do not work in Croatia and do not pay taxes, so what is their benefit for tourism in our country." That is why it is important to talk about digital nomads, raise awareness of their way of life and the benefits they bring to the society.

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If you had to explain 'Why Zagreb' for digital nomads in a sentence, what would that sentence be? 

Croatian capital has the best ranking among all Croatian cities according to www.nomadlist.com – so, come and check why it is so… ?

And lastly - and totally unrelated - I must ask you about flights. The number of Ryanair announcements to Zagreb is fantastic news for those trying to get to the capital as a tourism, as well as to take advantage of the excellent and affordable medical tourism offer. How significant is the Ryanair arrival for the city's tourism, and do you expect more budget airlines to follow? And final flight question... three airlines have announced direct flights from USA to Dubrovnik this summer. Are we close to a New York - Zagreb route?

The arrival of Ryanair in Zagreb and connecting our city with 12 lines to eight countries (Belgium, Montenegro, France, Italy, Norway, Germany, Sweden, UK), is important for the development of tourism in the capital of Croatia and the whole country. Low-cost airlines connect the cities of various countries, so it is logical to choose Zagreb as a year-round destination for a city break vacation. We welcome every new airline that comes to Zagreb and we will be glad to see the "tail" of Ryanir among other companies that are already landing in our city. This will contribute to the further positioning of Zagreb as a city break destination and will further facilitate its accessibility to interested visitors. It is also a great trigger for digital nomads because it makes the arrival to Zagreb easier and affordable. As far as the national airline is concerned, we must not forget that Croatia Airlines was the only one connecting us with the Europe and the rest of the world when all other companies stopped flying during the most severe pandemic measures. The profile and the business philosophy of the low-cost and mainline carries is different and we welcome them all.

Regarding the NY – Zagreb route, the news about three airlines with direct flights from USA to Dubrovnik is fantastic not only for Dubrovnik, but for whole Croatia and Zagreb, as well. I hope this is a step closer to direct connection with Zagreb, and for now, people can come via Dubrovnik – it is a short 45 min flight…

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

For the latest news from the Croatian capital, follow the dedicated TCN Zagreb section.

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

20 Tourists in Zagreb Tested For COVID-19

ZAGREB, 13 April, 2021 - Foreign tourists who generate at least one bed night in Zagreb can be tested for COVID-19 at 50% of the price and about 20 have already been tested over the weekend, the director of the Zagreb Tourist Board (TZGZ), Martina Bienenfeld, said on Tuesday.

TZGZ is the first regional tourist board in Croatia that has opened a testing station for foreign tourists as had previously been proposed by Tourism and Sports Minister Nikolina Brnjac.

Testing to be co-financed

In addition to opening the testing station, TZGZ has decided to cofinance testing that is conducted during weekends and public holidays, Bienenfeld told Hina.

TZGZ will cover half the cost of testing for tourists, she said, estimating that the greatest demand will be in the coming period and that that will depend on the percentage of inoculated tourists from the countries they are coming from, but also of employees in tourism and citizens themselves, and finally on the introduction of Digital Green Certificates at the EU level.

Testing during weekdays will be at the normal price and already about ten Zagreb hotels are providing testing services. Testing can also be conducted at Zagreb's airport.

Providing opportunity for tourists to extend their stay

"One of the important reasons why we decided to co-finance testing in the days noted is that this provides the opportunity for tourists to extend their stay in Zagreb, because they do not have to worry where and when they can be tested when returning to their countries and they can avoid quarantine," said Bienefeld.

All the necessary information regarding testing is available at www.infozagreb.hr/korona-virus in various languages, she said and added that the first tourists tested this way last weekend (10 and 11 April) were from Italy, Denmark, Germany and Albania.

Bienefeld said that since the beginning of the year until 11 April, almost 65,000 tourists had visited Zagreb and they generated 177,500 bed nights, which is about 47% of arrivals and 58% of bed nights generated in the comparable period in 2020.

Compared to the record 2019 year, that is about 27% and 37% of arrivals and bed nights respectively. 

For more about COVID-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

 

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Development of Health Tourism: High Priority for Croatian Tourist Offer

March 25, 2021 - Both the Croatian Ministry of Tourism and Sports and Croatian tourist boards recognised the development of health tourism as a high priority for Croatia.

To discuss the development of health tourism in Croatia, a branch that is becoming one of the more important Croatian tourist products, Croatian Tourism and Sports minister Nikolina Brnjac met with Kvarner Tourist Board director Irena Peršić Živadinov, Kvarner Health Tourism cluster president Vladimir Možetič, and Zagreb Tourist Board director Martina Bienenfeld. As life expectancy and healthy lifestyle trends increase, the value of health tourism grows. The novel coronavirus only made that growth even more rapid.

"Over 80,000 tourists in 2020 visited Kvarner (well-known for Lošinj Island and its hospital for respiratory issues) for health services. Today, many people are recovering from the consequences of the novel coronavirus there," said the Kvarner Tourist Board director Živadinov.  

"We have all the advantages for further development of health tourism: a good reputation of health services, qualified staff, natural richness of thermal sources, good climate, and long tradition of tourism," said minister Brnjac. Her goal is to pull Croatia out of the perception of a country only good for the summer season.

Croatia offers health services in wellness and medicine tourism. Health tourism is most associated with the regions of Kvarner, Istria, northern Croatia, and Zagreb, but the goal is to include other regions that have the potential for health tourism and to achieve the goals of a strategy that needs to be accomplished by 2030.

Martina Bienenfeld said that the Zagreb Tourist Board is working on the City's recognition as the centre of medical excellence. She pointed out good traffic connections, a mixture of the Mediterranean and mid-Europe climate, as well as good prices of health services as great advantages of Croatia's capital to the international clientele.

The Health Care Bill and Services in Tourism Bill now allow hospitality and health tourism services in hospitals and medical centres. These legal changes are also significant in attracting further investments in the field.

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

 

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