A chance of 100 million euros per year

We are talking about the labor force of the recent era, these are people who work remotely, for them there are no borders, they constantly travel and, unlike tourists, stay longer - even for several months...

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Nomads can work from any location, as long as it offers excellent internet access, Photo: Pixabay/Matthias Zeitler

Montenegro is an ideal base for digital nomads - people who use communication technologies to provide their services from anywhere in the world, but it still needs to define a set of proper measures, so that their life and work are not unnecessarily burdened with procedures.

If Montenegro became a globally attractive destination for digital nomads, it would help not only the further development of tourism, where an additional 100 million euros in revenue can be expected, but it would make the information technology (IT) sector another pillar of the Montenegrin economy.

This was said by the interlocutors of "Vijesti" from DevClub, an informal community that gathers domestic IT experts.

Who are digital nomads?

Digital nomads are the workforce of the modern age, they are people who work remotely, for them there are no borders, they travel constantly and, unlike tourists, stay longer in the destinations they choose - even for several months... Working via internet, they earn in their home countries, i.e. abroad, and spend the earned money in the host country - on real estate rental, food, transportation, entertainment...

For a country where the tourist season lasts half a year, it is a very good way to fill the budget, Kach and Jonathan Howe, a married couple of bloggers, told "Vijesta". After seven years of traveling and having visited 143 countries as digital nomads, they bought a house in Herceg Novi last year and now, among other things, they are promoting Montenegro as a destination for digital nomads.

It is estimated that by 2035 there will be around one billion digital nomads in the world.

“Digital nomads are IT and other professionals who use popular tourist destinations with a relatively lower cost of living as their primary business locations. They are extremely mobile, increasing in number every year, with relatively sufficient financial resources and a wide network of business contacts around the world. A typical digital nomad has a high-paying full-time job or business in one of the digital professions that they can do remotely. This individual, and sometimes a group, has two goals, which is to work and to enjoy when he is not working, and he wants to achieve both without many vicissitudes in the form of administrative procedures for registration of residence, searching for suitable office space or finding ways to connecting to the local IT ecosystem whenever it changes location within a given country. In addition, when he comes to a certain destination, he stays longer than the average guest", DevClub founder Dragan Čabarkapa told "Vijesta".

Capphoto: Facebook

Around the world, different countries offer visas for digital nomads, in Europe such visas are offered by Estonia, and such a model is also being considered in Croatia. Common for countries that have already introduced similar visas is that they ask candidates to not be penalized, to have health insurance, digital nomads are not allowed to work for an employer in the host country, nor to provide services to companies in the host country - in short, digital nomads must have income from abroad, and some host countries even have a condition and what is the minimum on an annual basis.

Speaking about Montenegro, Čabarkapa says that it is not enough to just copy others and introduce visas.

"Countries that are currently recognized as primary destinations for digital nomads have significant benefits from that. The primary benefits are an increase in the employment of tourist capacities throughout the year, higher incomes in tourism, faster, better and more balanced development of the IT sector through greater availability of missing expertise and direct connection with global IT centers, where digital nomads mostly come from," he said.

What does Montenegro (not) offer

According to him, Montenegro is an attractive destination for digital nomads due to its natural beauty, convenient time zone, low prices and proximity to major European cities.

"All these features are significant comparative advantages and our potential. However, that potential is currently not used because we do not offer a complete and rounded 'product'. In order to offer a complete 'product' and be recognized by digital nomads as their favorite destination, it is necessary to make an additional effort and implement a set of the right measures in a coordinated manner. When we say we, we mean the competent institutions, various actors in tourism, representatives of digital nomads and us as the IT community. When we say the right measures, we mean everything that allows our guest to focus on work, enjoyment and integration with the local IT ecosystem. It is not enough to just copy others and introduce visas for digital nomads, but everything that our system requires the guest to do, which is not in line with the goals the guest has, should be omitted or simplified, so that the burden is as small as possible," said Čabarkapa. .

The Howe couple see as a problem for nomads in Montenegro that all procedures take place in the Montenegrin language, but, they add, this can also be overcome by hiring advisers and translators.

"We hope that Montenegro will enable visas for digital nomads, so that foreigners can get temporary residence. It will certainly have a positive effect on tourism, and maybe people, like us, will decide to buy real estate."

Kach and Jonathan promote Montenegro as a destination for digital nomads photo: Private archive

In addition to the fact that it should enable visas for digital nomads, and thus their longer stay in Montenegro, with the possibility of working for the foreign market, DevClub proposes to simplify the residence registration procedures for digital nomads, so that when they come to Montenegro they can to register just like nomads and, says Čabarkapa, to receive a complete package of services with direct integration into the local IT ecosystem.

"Additionally, that all administrative procedures, which after a detailed analysis are determined to be necessary, be adjusted so that they can be implemented in English and preferably online without physical presence. To build, improve and integrate infrastructural capacities in the form of coworking spaces in all tourist centers both in the south and in the north of Montenegro. To enable the acquisition of economic citizenship by simply changing the regulations and through investment in the ICT sector in the form of founding and investing in various startups (innovative technology companies). To exempt all inflows from abroad based on services provided, income tax. Therefore, to additionally motivate those who come - to stay with us. And in the end, let's present all of this beforehand, after realizing it, clearly and loudly to our target audience", said Čabarkapa.

ESTIMATE - 30.000 guests and 900.000 overnight stays

If Montenegro is successfully positioned as a globally attractive destination for digital nomads, DevClub estimates that, on an annual basis, it would be possible to expect 30 thousand more guests from that segment.

"With an additional 900 thousand overnight stays and 100 million euros of additional income. We also believe that there would be an extension of the tourist season, as well as an additional incentive for the development of tourism in the north of Montenegro. The expected secondary effects are a faster and better connection of the local IT ecosystem with global IT centers through the contacts of digital nomads, greater availability of missing expertise on the local IT market, an additional source of jobs for local IT companies and individuals, as well as a generally greater attractiveness of Montenegro for the arrival of larger IT companies. companies, experts and their investments. The specific value of the secondary effects on the development of the IT sector is difficult to estimate exactly, but our expectations are that this value would exceed those directly related to the tourism sector", assessed from DevClub.

In this informal association of IT experts, they do not see digital nomads as competition, on the contrary.

"Digital nomads are often very well paid, they do not represent competition for local IT staff, but they represent an additional source of jobs for individuals and local companies. They also represent a huge source of potential founders of innovative technology companies, which we need now more than ever. With the increase in the number of digital nomads and their stronger integration into the local IT community, we can expect greater availability of specific expertise that currently does not have the conditions to develop due to the lack of mentors in those areas. In the end, that knowledge and the time saved with that knowledge is what has the greatest value".

An opportunity for the north as well

The Howe couple say that Podgorica is a logical choice for digital nomads, because it is an administrative and business center, and the airport is close by. Nomads often choose places on the coast as well, and Jonathan says that the north doesn't have to be an exception.

“I'm sure that cities in the north can attract digital nomads. I grew up in the mountainous part of Great Britain, so I love that kind of area. Žabljak, Plužine, Kolašin allow you to devote yourself to work in peace in the morning, and to go out and enjoy nature in the afternoon or to do whatever suits you". He adds that the great advantage of working via the Internet is precisely that you can change the environment as you wish, and that Montenegro, with so many differences that are close to each other - the sea, the mountains... - can satisfy everyone.

Without super internet, there are no nomads

When choosing a host country, quality telecommunications infrastructure is at the top of every digital nomad's list.

"If we can't connect, we can't work," says Jonathan and adds that after considering the internet offer, they should definitely ask about the cost of living, what the climate is like in the host country, about visas, residence permits...

About the conditions in Montenegro, the married couple Howe writes on the website montenegrodigitalnomad.com, and they also run the Facebook group Montenegro Digital Nomads.