The Croatian Blueprint: attracting digital nomads with Tanja Polegubic

The Croatian Blueprint: attracting digital nomads with Tanja Polegubic

Full Transcript

Curtis Duggan: Hi Tanja. I'm using different podcast software 'cause we tried the first time and Streamyard, which I normally use. We the mic wasn't working for one of us, so I'm in this new environment I'm using something called podcast. It looks like everything's going well. I'm glad to have you on the podcast remotely serious.

It's all about remote work, digital nomads and stuff like that, so it's right up your alley and I'll do a quick. I'll do a very quick introduction of you before you correct me if I've got anything wrong. But you're a digital nomad leader Australian born Croatian with a strong influence over the direction of the digital nomad movement in Croatia and around the world.

But as I've known you, you've really focused in on assisting, leading, and driving the digital nomad strategy in Croatia, working with. A bunch of different stakeholders. Is that a fair introduction?

Tanja Polegubic: That is great. Yeah. I'm glad I didn't have to write one by the way. I love the name remotely serious.

It's great.

Curtis Duggan: Yeah, it's funny, a lot of people have said that, and it doesn't, it's not necessarily that it makes me warm and fuzzy inside as an entrepreneur. I, lots of scars around good feedback, bad feedback, how to take it. But I do take note when people do tend to say, Hey, that's a great name. It usually means, hearing that, six or seven times or more.

It's good. It's good. It makes me not what's, it makes me not anxious about, oh, did I choose the right uur? L Yeah. Did I choose the right name? Do I need to change it a year in? I won't, probably won't be changing it. But you're phoning in from Croatia right now. I know that you've been in all kinds of different cities.

You've run initiatives in different cities and regions. Which city or region of Croatia are you in right now?

Tanja Polegubic: I'm I'm currently in Dalmatia. I'm in split.

Curtis Duggan: Split. That's where we met when I was in Croatia last fall. It's actually coming up on almost a year since then. Oh, wow. Not quite, but maybe nine months since then.

But really enjoyed my first, or it was my second time in Croatia, but my most recent time we were in. Split Dubrovnik, Hvar and Kula and then on onwards to Kotor Montenegro. So of course, as you would agree, I'm sure it's a beautiful part of the world. What's it been like in, in 2023?

I, I. We were happy to cover and look at some of the initiatives you were doing in Central Istria, and I know that you have big projects coming up, maybe just taking a step back from any particular region, what's it like this summer in 2023 in terms of the digital nomad, the amount of people coming, how the governments and cities are looking at it.

What's this summer been like in Croatia for nomads and remote

Tanja Polegubic: workers? Sure. So great question. Normally through. Summer, it's the busiest tourist period. So you know, the number of digital nomads coming or the long stay remote worker tends to drop because just prices, drive people out.

And some people wanna avoid the crowds anyway, so even if you do have the cash it's not really your first pick, whether that's Croatia or elsewhere. I imagine So. Yeah, I'm, in all honesty, I'm not exactly sure because I no longer run a coworking space. And regular meetups, which pause over summer.

Anyways, so my finger hasn't been super on the pulse this year, I have to admit. I still definitely see nomads working alongside me in cafes. So they're out there, that's for

Curtis Duggan: sure. You're touching on something though that I think is really. Important for destination marketing. I've been saying, speaking with other guests on the podcast about this, when I was at running remote, I noticed a slight uptick.

So I was at running remote this year, in 2023, earlier in the spring. And I noticed an uptick in destinations that were coming to that conference. It's one data point. It's not a trend yet that I'm seeing, but I do think that, Actually, I do think it is a trend that I'm seeing.

In the sense that Bueno, sire and Reef and various destinations specifically we're coming to remote work and nomad conferences to market their destinations and Croatian. Organizations have been doing that for several years. But the thing that you are touching on is that summertime in Europe, in Croatia, but also in many parts of Europe, is just a hotbed for tourists.

And the sheer millions upon millions of arriving tourists. Absolutely. Just overshadows, dwarfs any impact of remote workers and digital nomads. And in some cases, like you're saying, the prices go up so much because it's the high season. It's almost not a good great time for digital nomads to do what they do best, which is often to, arbitrage, finding a low-cost place.

Or look for hidden gems. And Dubrovnik in the middle of summer is full of lots of people that are. Exploring its beauty but the tourists are just so much bigger than the remote workers. That's something that, that destinations I've heard are trying to solve. How do we get, how do we smooth out the year if we're gonna have these long-term remote workers?

Whether it's smoothing out the year for digital nomads or remote workers to come year round, or figuring out ways to plug the gap in economic tourism revenue. In the low season when tourists don't come as much. A lot of these cities I don't wanna be too dramatic about it, but they effectively turn on for the summer and then shut down for the winter.

In terms of the economic activity, there might be still stuff going on, but there's a dramatic shift. Do you see that changing anytime soon? Or is Europe always just gonna have a huge summer tourist season and then a low season? W will remote workers come to remote work destinations in the winter?

Tanja Polegubic: Yeah I would say that there's more people who will step through, again, whether it's Croatia, Montenegro, as you mentioned, or other countries for a shorter period, like maybe it's just a taster of where you wanna. Explore. And then the committed, let's say, who wanna stay for a year or longer generally find a way, find that one year lease.

Whereas the ones who were staying, I think some of the stats out there are that the average stay is about 69 days. So that tends to be in what's called the shoulder. Spring, autumn, or even winter. And so I, I don't see it changing just because there's. Too much money to be made for people to be renting out long term.

You still can find the not necessarily hidden gems of destinations where it's just you, but hidden gems of accommodation, I'll call it, because there are people who are just, frustrated by, having to do nightly check-ins and also just the shortage in Staff to help with linen changes and check-ins.

And so there are some people who, if this is another source of income for them to be renting out their apartment and it's not vital, they will definitely be open to long-term rental. So I guess it's just asking around. I see it a lot on forums. There are definitely people who don't wanna be renting short to short term leisure tourists.

And then the other side of that is absolutely off season. That is what I focus on now with some of the work that we do. Places that don't get a lot of tourism in the off season, which is everywhere with the exception of Zaga. But I'd say you have that steady year round, a business there operates 3, 6, 5, maybe it gets more in summer.

I don't really know that much about that. Whereas in, on the coast or an island, your peak is, just happened between the 15th of July and the 15th of August, so I don't really see that changing, whether it's Resha or elsewhere

Curtis Duggan: in Portugal, and in especially Lisbon, there's been a.

Political backlash with digital nomads and remote workers, possibly unfairly being at the forefront of it. But nevertheless, there's a backlash against rising rent prices and housing prices in Lisbon and in Portugal. And this is happening in other parts of the world too. Mexico City digital nomad destination where gentrification and rising prices are also a local political problem.

Do you find that? The same dynamic is playing out in Croatia. Do local Croatians complain about remote work or digital nomads or tourists driving up the price of hou of housing in the region? In the same way that's happening in Portugal.

Tanja Polegubic: What I've seen is, and it's not even digital nomads or remote workers, but like just people relocating, so expats or members of the diaspora, like that's what I'm actually seeing an increase in, people coming for six to 12 months.

And staying in places, and obviously they wanna stay in more central areas, they're prepared to pay more rent. So I haven't really noticed that it's that digital nomads are copying any slack for that. But I think it's difficult in that you, again, back to that tourism, ability to make more money with nightly rentals than long term, that's still dominating.

You know what the. The supply. People are struggling to find those long stay places. So I don't really see that being an issue here. Maybe that will change though. I am not sure. But so


Curtis Duggan: so good. Yeah, I didn't hear much about that, and when I was there last year, I didn't experience much of that hearing.

Oh. We wish the nomads would go away and I also think you, you hit on something that's probably true, which is that it's defin it's not the nomads and remote workers that are causing, global housing, gentrification or housing bubbles or things like that. There are structural things around people just relocating and expats and baby boomers.

Fully retiring and moving from England and from other places to Spain and Portugal that is not, some, somebody that's working for a tech company on their laptop is not the absolutely primary driver of housing prices in a region.

Tanja Polegubic: That's right. And as far as I understand Portugal, I'm not sure for Mexico, but they have, different pathways toward residency and ultimately citizenship, whereas Croatia doesn't offer those.

So I think, that's not really pulling people here because they can't really stay. You have to be quite creative if you are looking to stay long term, whereas Portugal makes it quite easy.

Curtis Duggan: We've had guests already, Han Talbott and Meida Carmen are two of them at least, who have participated in some form or another as digital nomad ambassadors and I believe in, in, within programs that were sponsored by cities or regions within Croatia.

So you mentioned you've done work in central history, which I am, I'm aware of and tracked and followed last year and earlier this year. And you have some projects coming up. Maybe we can talk a little bit about the thing you mentioned, which was regions that are not the main tourist cities or islands that don't get as much attention in the off season and what you've been doing to run projects that highlight the existence and the beauty and the attractiveness of some of these lesser known regions.

Tanja Polegubic: Sure. Yes. Han and me were involved in the Dubrovnik Digital Nomad Ambassador Program, which is running all year with the exception of the peak summer season. Central Istria. So it's with sits within Theria and Peninsula and it's considered an underdeveloped tourism re region. So it only has a certain amount of accommodation available.

It's obviously not as popular as on the coast, however, you are pretty much a 20 minute drive. From the coast within those within that interior part. And so it, it's got a lot going for it in the sense of, not someone who's looking to have, a huge community when they land. But as you mentioned earlier, people looking to relocate for, and fi even finding real estate that's a lot cheaper than, other parts of Europe and even Croatia.

So an area like that, they've through their tourist board director, they have focused on, promoting how one might live and work in that region. So last year we looked, we brought together a team to, research through, design thinking workshops, what some of the draw cards for that area, and obviously, Who is it not for?

Mobility is a huge issue up there. You do need your own wheels in an area like that. And that limits who might come there. And there's no one size fits all for any destination and nor does that destination suit everyone. But what we found was it's great for foodies and people needing.

To have that focus work like time. It's very distraction free. There's not a lot going on, like you have to create it yourself or be out in nature. So I think that's probably the best example so far. Dubrovnik as well. This has been a multi-year adventure, let's call it, where previously I always like to point out over a million people would walk those city walls every year.

And, maybe just a handful would ever consider staying beyond the three days that they were there, for 30 or more days. And so that's more of like a. Again, probably a great example of a destination not connected to remote working or long stay. And I, for me, that is actually my favorite place to be in, in the winter months for a month or more.

And I've, had the great opportunity to be able to do that without the crowds. Still lovely, mild Mediterranean climate. And then the third one is an island. So again, you kinda like. Piloting some areas, and this is on bra. It's centered around an activity that's, a key part of the island, which is olive picking.

They started this. Novelty world championships in olive picking competition a few years ago. And the organizer reached out 'cause he'd been coming to some of the digital nomad meetups in Zare where he's based and said, could you put together a digital nomad team? And I said, absolutely.

And so each year we're creating new teams that because you have either countries. Compete or a digital nomad team. And yeah, I think this year we've got five teams coming along with, and the bulk of them are digital nomads competing under their, country flags. That's another example of an area that a lot of these towns might be ghost towns in winter, whereas the particular town, this.

Olive Picking Festival is in is quite vibrant. They do a lot of things through the year. In April when I was there, I saw, a bunch of seniors cycling around the island, which is, an amazing time of year to do that. And, they have football tournaments for youth from the mainland so there are these little pockets of places that really run a lot of community in initiatives year round.

And once we've found them, we're trying to build that up. Slowly year by year to, to promote it and show, hey, this is how it could be done. So even though we're not across every small little island village, other island villages can see that as a case study and learn from it. So yeah That's pretty much the top three that I

Curtis Duggan: can share maybe for listeners that are a little bit older, I think for nomads that are 20 or 25 now, Croatia is on the map.

Definitely on the map has been for five or 10 years or a long time in terms of a nomad destination since Nomad and got popular last decade. They know that they can go to a coworking space and split. They can head down to Dubrovnik. They know that there's the islands. And they're probably learning more about the regions that you're promoting as well.

But for an older traveler and just speaking for the North American Gen Xers and boomers, I'm not one of them, but I'm just saying I know. I know how they think. And just by the nature of history and the Cold War the Gen X and boomers are a little bit more, a little bit less familiar or might think of this region as something from, that they remember from the former Yugoslavia or from some of the wars of the nineties.

So for, for a lot of North Americans, they're just much more familiar with Western Europe, unfortunately. Can we just go through what Croatia is like? So if we're talking to someone who's a little bit more familiar with France and Spain and Italy, or we're thinking about them as an audience just describing.

This is essentially a country on the Adriatic coast. So if you think of the the right side of the Italian boot that goes up into closer to Slovenia and Austria, and then curls back down around on its way to Greece. Along that coastline, we have Croatia, a country, which is not just the coastline, it's shaped of course.

Towards the capital Zagreb, and then it has land that sort of moves in a, it's almost like a sea shape in a sense. And it borders some of the neighbors. So the nor neighboring Balkan countries like like Bosnia and and Serbia and then Montenegro clo further down the coast.

What is Croatia like in terms of the coastal islands and cities and then inland Is there, what is the. Flora and fauna, what can someone expect when they are on the coast? And then also what can they expect if they go inland to a central region?

Tanja Polegubic: So the coastal area has a Mediterranean climate and the further south you go, so say Dubrovnik, it tends to be.

A bit warmer. Obviously continental, so once you cross the mountain range, that kind of divides it. It's a lot cooler. And something to consider is, the different conquerors over the ages. So there's ottoman influences, there's Venetian, there's Austro-Hungarian. So cuisine wise you get a full range.

The. Other thing that I think, at least for me in these last few years, which I've come to really appreciate, is the nature and the ability to get from different, types of, so where, whether it's island or mountaintop or, caves and canyons is, it's really everything's quite close.

So say with Greece, like it might take a few hours to get from island to island the city of Sibenik, like you can reach. A hand, a sprinkling of islands within a matter of under 20 minutes. And The archipelago, like there's over a thousand islands, so if you're a sailor, it's, it's a wonderland for any enthusiasts like that.

The sea is quite calm. So coming from Australia you don't have a lot of waves. There's definitely no sharks that, can bite your arm off. And so the. The ability to just, explore and safety. I really take this for granted, but it's come up again and again, particularly people who've either lived in the US and come over here to base.

There really is a great amount of safety. I can safely walk from the center of town home. Obviously not, Risking, my walk home, staying with lit roads, but I've always felt a real sense of safety. There's that real community vibe. Kids will be outside playing till 11:00 PM within their neighborhoods.

That's what happened when I was a kid, grow. And there's a friendliness, there's a warmth an ease. Ease in getting around to places. Definitely not ease with paperwork and bureaucracy, though. I wanna make that one clear. Yeah. So hopefully that answers yeah, it's the scene a bit.

Curtis Duggan: The language, which I've heard called Serbo Croatian, although I know that the naming of it is probably something that has some politics in it or some kind of compromise to it. But the way that I hear it as an, as a, an outsider to the Balkans, but someone who spent a bit of time there, is that there's a language that's actually very similar, if not the same language, at least very much related dialects that Croatians call Croatian and Montenegrins call Montenegrin and Serbians call Serbian.

Of course they would say it in, in your lang in the language. It's not, those are the English words for it, but that, that language that is in four or five countries throughout the Balkans is actually mutually intelligible and. And if you understand it in one country, you could understand it in four or five countries.

Is that generally the true

Tanja Polegubic: yeah, you could totally understand your neighbor. The other thing I'd add on that is the level of English proficiency here is incredible. I studied in Italy for a couple of years and, was surprised that the English wasn't as widely spoken.

Definitely among younger people, but here from kids out in the playground talking to other kids, my friend's kids just came over and were scared that they wouldn't be able to communicate when they got here, and they had no problem. Yeah, getting around I've heard that as well from whether it's tourists or nomads.

The ease in communicating and it's a Latin alphabet, so you know, you can understand as you're getting around. So yeah,

Curtis Duggan: A lot of parts of Europe, but not all parts of Europe. There was that concession to be able to accommodate all those English speakers that come to visit and a lot a high level of English everywhere and signs in both languages.

So that's that's much appreciated of course. But As a North American, you always wanna be careful about assuming too much or expecting too much, or just presuming that someone should speak English. But it is nice to know for people that are thinking of visiting that That English is is widely spoken.

And of course, especially, even more and especially at a very high level in all of the tourist destination areas where it's, it's everywhere. And everyone who's providing services and, tours and restaurants and wonderful food they all. Speak English as well.

Is there also is there a high level of any other language? Is there like a history of knowing German or Italian because they're close by?

Tanja Polegubic: Yeah, definitely German. In fact, there's a town that I saw that, when I have their bilingual, a frames outside a restaurant it'd be German, not English.

So I guess certain parts. Have traditionally also attracted, an annual visitor from Germany. And I find even though I go in, I might go into a bakery and order in Croatian, I'm just automatically answered in English, whether it's my accent coming through or I just don't look like I'm from here.

I, yeah, so it's. I speak more English than Croatian when I'm out, I find

Curtis Duggan: is what is your history? We, you have you have a nice, I think, slight Australian accent in English. But you are in Croatia. Were you born, I'm just curious a little bit. I don't, I, on this podcast, I don't usually like to, Like I know some podcasts, they will start and they'll almost start at the beginning of someone's life and go through the entire biography.

I actually try not to do that, but at certain times it comes up naturally, and this is maybe one of those times where I'm like, tell me your story. You know you're Australian, but you're Croatian. How did that all work? Yeah.

Tanja Polegubic: So my parents are both born here or not in split about an hour or so from split and migrated to Australia.

So me and my brothers were all born there. But I would come here on vacation and, to. Touch on the theme, it was remote work that it, really was the key factor that maybe decide to move here. Prior to that, it, I didn't even consider it. Not 'cause I didn't like the place, just 'cause, you gotta make a livelihood, right?

And, I, my creation wasn't, good enough to be working here either. And yeah I've been here now for almost seven years. With the nomads and other friends that come through it, it really just feels like an international hub. Where you get a mix of local culture as well as, a bit more of what I'm used to and finding people with my own interests or learning new things.

Curtis Duggan: Australia, it seems to be going through the similar kind of thing that I'm seeing in Canada, my home country. Where with. Real estate prices, interest rates, and just the general culture. There's, it's increasingly a I'm gonna interject my own opinion, but it's increasingly a Ponzi scheme to get more and more people into more and more expensive houses where the.

Median income of the country is not necessarily keeping up. So you have people making, I'll just make it up, yeah. A hundred grand a year in family income between two people that would buy a $500,000 house. Maybe, annual income is one fifth of the price of the house. Yeah. 10 or 15 years ago.

Yeah. Or 20 years ago. And now you have people that are stru, same income or income that's increased slightly. But the houses are $1.5 million or $2 million and people are still, getting gifts from parents and yeah, huge mortgages still and taking on that. And I personally don't believe that it's sustainable and that in actually in Canada, the us, Australia, Portugal, and a lot of places we're already in a downturn of this unraveling and that it won't continue to go up, up, and up.

But that dynamic. Is something that's that spurred on the digital nomad movement, at least, in the last few years. Part of it was covid, but I think it's also just people leaving London, leaving Vancouver, leaving Melbourne.

Tanja Polegubic: Oh, I feel really, and so this is, just, I should have actually expanded on it a bit.

I, I didn't wanna lock myself into, at the time, a 700,000, dollar Australian dollar loan. Probably like 1.1 million now. And I. I, I should actually make clear I have some property here that cost, a fraction of what it is in Australia, and, it's in a place that I really like, I can walk to the sea as opposed to, a two hour drive from Canberra to the south coast.

So affordability for me was a huge factor to be able to just, Pay off a home and the ability to work remotely or even, obviously haven't been working remotely. I've been working here on projects. So catering to a remote working audience, though I just think it's a winner.

And I look at, with Australia now, it was obviously locked down for a while, but if I were, in my twenties or starting out in my career in Australia, I'd basically be negotiating a remote job on the Australian, at the Australian level, going through, Asia or o other countries, obviously Croatia, but obviously a dollar go further in Asia and saving up maybe getting your foot into that property ladder or buying elsewhere.

It's, yeah it's a bit nuts. I'm glad I'm not in it.

Curtis Duggan: Do you see any Croatian real estate organizations or realtors as we call them in Canada, real estate agents? I think estate agents in the UK they call 'em, that are capitalizing on, I. International. I, there's, I know there's always been an expat luxury market from the Christie's, the Sotheby's, the fancy real estate around the world.

But do you see anything that's capitalizing almost on the type of purchase that you're making, which is an affordable purchase relative to a home country? So Croatia is more affordable than Australia and. Houses, condos, pieces of land where their marketing, the people selling are marketing or the brokers of the people selling are marketing towards.

Remote workers or nomads. Is that a trend? Is that


Tanja Polegubic: thing? Yeah, funny you should say that. I don't go through it's not like I watch the market or anything. I've just happened to, buy my properties. But I did see a billboard this summer. That it was something about expat properties.

And yes, clearly there are some realtors who are focused on that, whether they or not they're from here. It might be, more of a European based franchise, similar, catering to the markets in. Portugal and other countries that have had this happening a lot longer. In Croatia it's a bit difficult.

There's, you really have to be careful of a thing called like clean papers. So due to the, in the inheritance laws, you might have 48 people that own a property because it just gets passed down to, the children and then their children. And so it, it really is a case of bio beware.

I'm not really sure. If that's the same case in other parts of Europe where expats are going. But here I just heard, I've heard a lot of stories about people being stung. So not to deter people from considering Croatia. Absolutely not. So yeah, I think if you are a real estate agent, you'd have to be, very thorough and have a great, legal partner to, to help with that.

Particularly 'cause people dunno how to navigate some of the, local laws and requirements here. I don't really know that people are going to focus on remote workers and digital nomads. But I do think it's a great opportunity if there are realtors out there listening to this or someone who, wants to expand their own business here.

Yeah, it's a

Curtis Duggan: great idea. I. Have you been nomadic in the last few years or have you spent most of your time in Croatia?

Tanja Polegubic: I have mostly been in Croatia. I got a bit busy in Covid with everyone, the nomads coming here and running these projects. But I've been nomadic within my own country, so I have, been able to Based down in Dub Nicola did some work recently in Albania.

They had a great Digitaled festival last year, and focusing on this audience too, which is great to see. But I am about to embark on some adventures though, Curtis. It's about time. Yeah.

Curtis Duggan: I know that feeling. It's about time for an adventure. Yeah. Yeah. Can you say, is it a secret or are there certain.

Tanja Polegubic: No, it's not a secret. I am going down to, I went to Australia when they, let us all back in. And yeah, I'm heading back down again and this time I'm gonna go through Asia and I think a bit of the South Pacific again.

Curtis Duggan: We had in the South Pacific, we had the director of the digital residency program in Palau, j Hunter, Anson, on the program.

So there's some interesting stuff going on in the south that particular country is a series of islands. That's You need to get to Guam or you need to get to Taiwan in order to get to it. So it's it is remote and exciting and I'd like to go someday, but the South Pacific I could see it, this kind of remote work destination that's a little, it's getting on the radar, but it's a little bit under the radar compared to, say, Southeast Asia, all the classic places in Southeast Asia.

But they're close by, and one, one or two extra flights. But probably worth it to, to do. See one, one thing as you go through, through Asia I'm sure you'll see you'll get an updated view of how all those places are for nomads. I've heard things like Chung and Bali are much more crowded than they used to be in 2017 and 2018, and they're going, growing through changes, good, neutral and bad, depending on your opinion.

Yeah. One thing I wanted to ask was, without naming names, or you can name names if you want. Are there certain things you've worked on, stakeholder relations with various organizations that wanna promote and attract remote workers and digital nomads? Is there certain things or classic mistakes they make in terms of, ah, you're not getting it?

Or destinations that do things really well that, that kind of hit all the right points? I'm just curious is if you're saying, if you're saying to a destination, Hey, Okay, I'll just make up some place. Patagonia down in, south of South America. Let's say the Patagonian region wants to attract a bunch of digital nomads.

Maybe that's too big of a region and you'd find a specific place. Yeah. But let's just say there's a specific place, a village in Patagonia or a city in Patagonia that says, we really want to get more nomads. What have you seen in terms of destination marketing that is doing it well versus doing it?

They're not getting

Tanja Polegubic: it. Yeah, I certainly something stands out for me. I hope this answers your question and that is the. The real need to engage local accommodation providers and educate and, share that this is a longer term thing. During Covid, everyone was very receptive to anyone coming in and booking for, let's say a month or, and inflating the price, just say a thousand euro.

In an off season period, whereas, now that tourism is back and this is what they're used to, they're familiar with. People have forgotten that and yet they're, frustrated by the fact that they know they can't get cleaners or every, everything is like increasing in prices.

Were you to actually, Work with the like long stay audience a bit more and look at the longer term payoff if you will. It's, if this is an audience that you know, yes, obviously self caters, but eats out a lot. Like I, I really see that's the missed opportunity here of linking the fact that, someone coming for longer.

Is gonna be contributing to the local economy a whole lot more. And I think that there's just this shortsightedness and and then everyone's just burnt out by the end of the summer season. And then the last thing they wanna do is have to now also be, on hand to, oh, there's maintenance problems with the apartment and that.

So that's something that we found in Central Asia. Not necessarily representative of all the owners there, but. It was a comment that came up and I thought, wow you'd rather go for this. Let's call it a sure thing, although that has. Dropped in some parts. I think because the introduction to the Euro and Croatia people got, took that as, their signal to just really bump up their prices.

That's just feedback across the board and not necessarily matching it with quality of product or service. Which is a bit of a shame. But I think that happens often with, in those instances. And so that would be something that I think would really have to be an integral part and, It's the, whoever it is that's pushing it, whether it's a local tourism board or a city that builds in, incentivizes the apartment owners with that.

Because I think that's been probably, if I could look back and, fix or have done something better in some of the projects it would be that, and, that involves a lot of Community buy-in and for people to un understand that and yeah. So I imagine that might apply to other parts of the world where they do have a peak in visitation and then everything drops off and there is an off season.

So that's definitely my number one thing, I think. 'cause when you get that it, it becomes a lot easier. Just that affordability to come to a place and stay longer and take advantage of. What's there?

Curtis Duggan: Is it like tourists that are on vacation in the summer expect that they might pay high Euro prices for food because, oh, the summer weather's here.

We're only here for four days and we're on vacation, and so we just suck it up and pay 25 euros for an entree or something that is. Vacation prices, but nomads and remote workers don't. They're coming here to live and they don't expect to have inflated prices. They're actually looking for, reasonable prices or I'm just here to live. I'm not trying to spend a lot 'cause I'm on vacation. This isn't necessarily a, Special budget for me where, you know, if people go on vacation, they might spend four months, four months of living expenses in one month because of vacation is special or something like that, or even more.

Whereas a nomads and remote workers are just like, I'm just trying to transfer my monthly budget. So local restaurants and accommodations need to keep that in mind if they want to work with these people. You can't just jack up. I Is that what you mean? Like it's a mindset shift that like this visitor doesn't think the same way as a tourist who might be tolerant for a bit of of inflated prices over, for meals and that kind of

Tanja Polegubic: thing.

Yes. And also modifying prices for long stay and actually promoting their place for long stay. Normally people have a price in mind per night and that might equate to, I dunno, let's say it's 6,000 euro that they receive in the month of June. And so in their heads to offer an apartment in November for 600.

Is it's a real dip for 'em. It's actually if you, but you have to like, you have to make it affordable for people who are coming, as you said, they're not, putting all that money into, a vacation sort of fund. It's your day to day. It's like a regular living expense.

You just happen to be moving around. So I definitely don't think that the renters think that way in terms of restaurants and prices. Yeah, it, that's not really what I was covering, but yeah. You could offer, discounts for someone who is long stay like a loyalty card thing or something.


Curtis Duggan: No, that makes sense. You're, you were speaking more about the accommodations and that, that makes total sense. It is a huge come down to Think that a month is worth something and then adjust that, by quite a discount. Yeah. Yeah. And there is probably, in, in fairness to them, there is probably some number below which it just doesn't make sense.

And it's a headache and a hassle. Of course. Yeah. And they just don't wanna do it. Yeah. Okay. I'm, I know that you've you have some projects coming up in the next few years. You got an Asian adventure coming. Just in terms of the future of remote workers and digital nomads in Croatia, is there anything you're thinking about or seeing in terms of, five years from now what things will look like?

Are you optimistic that the trend is going up, up and up? We do have a little bit here in the media and in society. I think part of it's media generated and not real, but we have this kind of, Back to the office movement, this count counter-revolution. Counterinsurgency that says, Hey, actually no, maybe remote work isn't working.

We need, the companies in 2021 that we're saying we believe in remote and we're remote everywhere forever. Many of them are reneging on that and, whether it's, Amazon or others, the big ones and the medium sized ones, we're getting some of this. Back to the office movement.

How do you feel about, the next five or 10 years in remote work? The trends where things are going?

Tanja Polegubic: Oh, that's a great question. Gosh, if I had the answer, I'd be making millions right now, Curtis. Yeah, I think it'll always be there and I think that the, The next generation that are entering their professional careers now know that it doesn't always have to be like that.

So whether that's, month blocks at a time where one could explore, and work remotely I certainly don't see that disappearing. I think building that in as a perk. I've. Currently got a, the reason I'm gonna Australia is a contract that I've wanted to take and I'm already scheming on how to, they're not listening how I'm going to negotiate that.

I will work remotely. I. Once I've built that trust in the in-person, experience. And so to me it's just, it's gonna be a non-negotiable for a lot of people who've now found this freedom and we've demonstrated that it can work. What I would like to see for Croatia and something that we're working on, as a one of the.

Members of the Digital Noad Association, Croatia, we are actively working on getting funding like European Union funding to either, solve, projects within Croatia or partnerships with other countries, particularly those that have a digital noad association to, have a lot more knowledge sharing.

Like if there's something that worked in an off season rural area, like how might we share that? Is it, Engaging with companies more building in more co-living. We had a really great project that we are still looking to pursue with a national park that has, a. Huge space that can be modified into co-living for a part of the year and quite affordable.

So I'd like to see more of that and, whether it's working with other destinations to work on their long stay strategy with private owners. I think those things. Certainly gonna be my focus and within our association to try and make it easier for people so that, you are not having to negotiate every time or explain the value that you bring to a place.

Yeah, they're my, top things at the moment and. Yeah I imagine now, especially with Asia opening up and, you're a great example of Palau and these, other cool places that are under explored or, maybe people went for a week vacation or a honeymoon or something.

You can now go to some tropical paradise for a month or more. And I. Benefit that local community. I just think that's fantastic. So I hope to see more of that. I'm not just Croatia biased, like I'd like this to happen, wherever it would bring benefit to the people coming in or the local community

Curtis Duggan: for sure.

And if you're remote working and watching your budget, you can leave a tropical paradise after a month long stay, not poorer than when you left. Absolutely. Which is, it feels like a, That's a very recent innovation in human society. Yeah.

Tanja Polegubic: Totally. Totally. Yeah. I remember years back reading about some bungalow on the beach in Samoa for $18 a night.

I was like, wow. And so I'm sure there's those pockets of places like that, that are out there and yeah I really do love the lifestyle. I wanna keep supporting it through you. Initiatives whether I'm full-time on this or, I'm getting into a few other things at the moment.

But yeah, it's here to stay and, I'm glad you're doing this podcast and the work you're doing to keep it up because I do agree. I think, where is the, where are these returns off?

Curtis Duggan: There is gonna be a lot of interest in newer, new destinations. So Croatia has been something that's been on the map for the last five or 10 years, and I'm sure it will continue to be, but with places like Palau and others entering the game, entering kind of the map of places and just with the natural.

Kind of arbitrage of certain places get popular and then they get expensive and other places become, underappreciated and then appreciated. It's all part of the beautiful freedom that we all have with remote work. And I'm glad you mentioned, that you're glad I'm doing this podcast.

I do feel a little bit that some podcasts that I listen to just haven't published as many episodes or some of the content creation in Digital Nomadism has. Been in a bit of a lull since the heights of 2021. So I almost do this just for myself to add to the conversation and hopefully, keep the conversation going, doing my little part to to be part of the conversation.

So I'm glad you could join us today to be part of the conversation.

Tanja Polegubic: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it, everything you're doing and yeah, wish you well. And yeah, look forward to future episodes and hearing more about.

Curtis Duggan

Curtis Duggan

Curtis is a serial tech entrepreneur, content creator and the host of the Remotely Serious podcast on the future of remote work and digital nomadism.


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