Caribbean seeks long-term visitors

Barbados Prime Minister. Mia Mottley.
Photo by George Alleyne

Moving from a position of shattered tourism-dependent economies because of no arrivals for some four months up to July, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic some Caribbean islands are innovatively luring visitors with offers of easy citizenship, extended stays and reduced airline taxes.

Barbados was first out of the block with a novel change to its tourism package, offering an initial one-year visa free vacation and work stay with a ‘Welcome Stamp’ to the island for high net worth persons whose jobs allow them to work online.

Antigua and Barbuda’s cabinet has reportedly discussed luring visitors, referred to as ‘Knowledge Workers,’ with a similar offer but for an initial two years. That twin-island state appears to be now refining the concept as it is currently short on details.

Demonstrating its appreciation of the contribution made by visitors from other Caribbean states, Grenada meanwhile announced an intention to reduce tax on airline tickets for regional visitors.

St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis and Antigua are adding incentives to their already existing ‘Citizenship by Investment’ programs.

According to media reports, for example, “the government of St. Lucia has introduced a new option into its citizenship by investment portfolio, the COVID-19 Relief Bond that carries zero per cent interest. It was launched on May 12 and the offer will run until Dec. 31, 2020.

The Barbados program has already been finalized and the selling point is that its offer to tourists represents not only an opportunity for the visitor to work from the beach with a laptop in a wash of sunshine, but also because the island is almost COVID-19 free and fully open to movement of residents, there are no restrictions on movement except requested mask wearing and/or maintenance of social distancing.

This compares favorably to the UK — Barbados’ main market — Canada and the US.

As of Sept. 01, Barbados has had seven COVID-19 deaths, the last of which occurred since April. There are currently 23 persons in isolation.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley has been peddling the idea of a renewable one-year vacation and work stay through a number of virtual interviews with the British television that have spilled over to American TV channels.

Wednesday morning, she told CNN, “the shadow of COVID for us will live much longer than COVID largely because of it has decimated the tourism sector.”

“And that’s why we introduced the ‘(Welcome) Stamp’ because we recognize that short-term tourism isn’t going to work easily in these times with the safety protocols we have to put in place.”

Those protocols, which are frequently adjusted, sees visitors being classified as high risk; medium risk; and low risk based on the level of virus infection in their home country.

For a high risk visitor arriving for a short-stay, average one month or less, a one to two-week mandatory quarantine would be a turn off, but a ‘Welcome Stamp’ high net worth person coming for at least a year’s stay such a detention period will not be much of an obstacle.

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