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.
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.
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.