Dubrovnik Tourist Board Director Ana Hrnic on Digital Nomads, Tourism Reset

By 6 April 2021
Dubrovnik Tourist Board Director Ana Hrnic, Jan de Jong, Mayor Mato Frankovic, and TCN's Paul Bradbury at Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads conference in October 2020
Dubrovnik Tourist Board Director Ana Hrnic, Jan de Jong, Mayor Mato Frankovic, and TCN's Paul Bradbury at Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads conference in October 2020

April 7, 2021 - Applications have now closed for the inaugural Dubrovnik Digital Nomad-in-Residence competition. TCN caught up with Dubrovnik Tourist Board Director, Ana Hrnic, to talk nomads and the future of tourism in the Pearl of the Adriatic.

With just over 2 weeks to go to the start of the Dubrovnik Digital Nomad-in-Residence programme, TCN sat down with Dubrovnik Tourism Board Director, Ana Hrnic, to cover a wide range of issues related to tourism in Croatia's most iconic city, including its future direction. 

The Dubrovnik  Digital Nomad-in-Residence programme is a joint initiative from the City of Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik Tourist Board, Saltwater Nomads and TCN, funded by Dubrovnik. Saltwater Nomads CEO Tanja Polegubic recently gave an interview to TCN where she went into considerable detail about the programme. 

The judging panel of six has reached agreement, and the ten (VERY international) winners will be announced at a press conference at Lazareti in Dubrovnik on Friday, April 9 at 10:00. 


I caught up with Ana Hrnic, the Dubrovnik Tourist Board director, to talk nomads, but also various other issues regarding tourism in the city and its future direction. 

Being a tourist board director during a pandemic must be extremely stressful. Tell us how 2020 was for tourism in Dubrovnik from your perspective.

I came on the position of Dubrovnik Tourist Board director in February 2020. This would be a professional challenge for me in normal times, not to mention how challenging it was in months that followed. I just managed to meet the team and get familiar with the processes, when the pandemic started. This was a big shock for everyone, and of course for me personally as well. 2020 was I think the most specific year ever. We have had war and many other crises that affected tourism in the past, but this kind of a global impact was something we have never faced before. The year 2020 was very difficult, especially for Dubrovnik as a destination very dependent on international flights.

International air traffic began in mid-June, and intensified in July, when flights began from the UK market, our traditional number one market. Unfortunately, very soon Croatia was included in the red lists of many countries due to the epidemiological situation, so the season was very short for us. The announcements for September were good, but the epidemiological situation prevented us from realizing it.

Until recently, Dubrovnik tourism was known increasingly for cruise ships and over-tourism. 2020 changed all that. How was the feeling last year a) as a resident, and b) as a tourism professional?

Due to the over-tourism effects, a few years ago, Dubrovnik was on the list of destinations to avoid, and our UNESCO status was endangered. And lately, thanks to the measures taken by the city administration through the Respect the City project, Dubrovnik is on the list of destinations that are successfully coping with the trend of over-tourism, which has not bypassed many other famous tourist cities.

Mass tourism is inevitable, even for nominally more exclusive destinations than Dubrovnik. This was certainly due to the fact that flights became quite affordable, so thousands of people were given the opportunity to travel around the world for relatively little money. And there is cruising tourism which is also financially acceptable and accessible to a larger number of people. It should not be seen as something negative, but it should be properly managed. That is why destination management is important, in order to make tourism sustainable in all aspects.

Tourists who came to Dubrovnik last summer had the opportunity to fully enjoy the city without crowds, and experience the destination in a unique way.


Many see 2020 as an enforced opportunity for a complete reset. Is this the case for Dubrovnik tourism? More of the same of a complete reset? What is the vision?

We should focus primarily on quality and sustainability. I see Dubrovnik in the future as a destination of sustainable tourism, and as a destination of top-quality offer and excellence in all segments. I think it is very important to achieve a quality balance between satisfied visitors and satisfied citizens. There is no point in accumulating millions of overnights and arrivals, if our citizens are dissatisfied and if this affects negatively on the quality of our lives. 2020 definitely gave us the opportunity for a certain reset, and I believe we are on a good way.

In the years ahead, I think that nothing will look exactly the same as before and that we will be able to completely change the direction of tourism development towards sustainability. I believe that we will draw some lessons from all this that has happened and create clear visions for the future. We are convinced that the highest quality segments of the offer are the most resilient in crises and we need to work on raising quality in all segments.

Dubrovnik tourism should be tourism that respects above all the citizens of this city, which is sustainable and whose success is not measured solely by the number of overnights. The emphasis in the future must be placed on raising quality in all segments, in order to ultimately use this crisis to reposition Dubrovnik as a destination of excellence and sustainable tourism.

Dubrovnik has been a very early adaptor of the digital nomad opportunity in Croatia. Tell us why you believe it is such a good thing. And why should nomads choose Dubrovnik?

Speaking of digital nomads, in October last year the City of Dubrovnik hosted the event "Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads", and was the leader of this initiative in Croatia. Digital nomads are important for the destination where they live, because of the fact that they are good consumers, but also because of their activities which intensively promote the destination. It should also be emphasized that these are long stays, often in periods outside the main seasonal months. They become ambassadors of their new city, and in this way attract their friends, families and more and more digital nomads. In every aspect, Dubrovnik has the potential to become a prestigious and desirable destination for digital nomads. In order to attract them, it is necessary, in addition to an attractive destination and excellent internet connection, to provide them hospitality, show how safe in all aspects Dubrovnik is, to offer better long-term rental opportunities, greater engagement of the local community, and global promotion.

Dubrovnik has a reputation in some quarters as being expensive with not much to do after exploring the old town, which does not sound attractive to digital nomads, especially those on a budget. How would you answer those claims of being expensive and there being little to do?

The propaganda of Dubrovnik as a too expensive destination is, in my opinion, excessive, and such a sensationalist approach harms the destination. Lower quality destinations have the same prices as Dubrovnik. Coffee on Stradun and a kilo of top-quality fish in a luxury restaurant have their price, which is absolutely justified, and this should come as no surprise. From the prices in always the same restaurants, which are located in the most attractive locations within the city walls, the perception is created that the prices are the same everywhere. In the City, and even within the city walls, there are places with much more moderate prices and quality offer. I do not see Dubrovnik as a destination for sun and beach tourism, but as a destination for experiences. It is special at all times of the year, so it is not necessary to visit it in the months when prices are high. Dubrovnik and its surroundings have so much to offer during the whole year – from different events, festivals, gastronomy, active tourism… This can and will be improved in the future and Dubrovnik will be even more than now recognized as a whole year destination.

This is the first Digital Nomad-in-Residence partnership with a destination in the world as I understand. Tell us what you are expecting from this month, and how exactly will the tourist board and city participate?

We see this project as an excellent opportunity to promote Dubrovnik as a digital nomad-friendly destination. Through the project together with our partners and candidates, we will create a future strategy for positioning Dubrovnik as an attractive digital nomad destination, we will define areas for improvement and hopefully reach global promotion. Our candidates’ feedback on their one-month stay in Dubrovnik will be extremely useful for our future steps.

Tell us a little about the profile of the digital nomads you are hoping will apply. 

We are hoping to have a diverse range of candidates - different nationalities, occupations, skills, age groups, professional experiences… those who will help us promote the destination within the global digital nomad community, and whose experiences will help us develop future strategy.

How will you measure the success of the programme?

We will measure the success of the program by the number of digital nomads staying in Dubrovnik in future period, as well as global promotion and PR we are hoping to achieve. And of course, as I have already mentioned, our candidate’s feedback will be very valuable for us in the development of a future digital nomad-friendly destination strategy.

Applications for the Dubrovnik Digital Nomad-in-Residence programme have now closed, but you can learn more about it here.

For more information about digital nomads in Croatia, visit the TC Digital Nomads in Croatia in a Page. Or follow the latest in the dedicated TCN section