Attracting long-stay visitors who live by the beach and ‘commute’ remotely to cities all over the world is becoming big business for islands looking to compensate for lost tourism dollars.
Barbados was the first Caribbean island to publicly tap into the ‘digital nomad’ trend, when it announced its ’12-month welcome stamp’ in July.
More than 1,000 applications were submitted in the first week of the programme, according to a report in The New York Times, one of several international news organisations that gave coverage to the initiative.
Bermuda has since introduced a similar programme. The ‘work from Bermuda’ one-year-residential certificate is a $263 visa which entitles visitors to stay for 12 months, so long as their employment is overseas.
The Cayman Islands has announced plans for a ‘global citizen programme’, but it has yet to be rolled out and few concrete details have been announced.
Speaking at a Chamber of Commerce conference last month, Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said, “We are pursuing the opportunity to welcome business executives, entrepreneurs and students who can work remotely in a stunning and worry-free environment as they work and manage their business from offshore.”
Nick Joseph, an immigration lawyer with HSM Chambers, who assists people wishing to relocate to the islands, said long-stay tourism of this kind was already well established in the Cayman Islands.
But he believes it is a niche that can grow post-COVID with the right marketing and policies.
He said Cayman had always attracted second-home owners, including so-called ‘snowbirds’ looking to winter in warmer climes. They make a huge contribution to the economy by using car-rental companies, restaurants, water-sports businesses and others during their stays, he said.
As quarantine restrictions ease he expects an influx of those regular visitors to be accompanied by a new set of longer-stay visitors.
“With many schools and universities closed, and millions of persons working and studying online, many thousands enjoy a new-found flexibility from which Cayman is well placed to benefit,” he said.
Joseph said his firm was also seeing questions from residents about the ability to add their parents to immigration permissions to facilitate long stays in Cayman.
He said anyone who invested a certain amount in real estate or established a company here also had the potential to become a ‘long-stay’ visitor.
“Such persons seeking to come to the Cayman Islands for an extended period currently number in the many hundreds, if not thousands,” Joseph said. “A substantial number of presently unused tourism accommodations may well be filled by them in the months ahead.”
While he believes the framework already exists to allow most of these groups to come to Cayman – pending minor relaxations of the current border-entry policies – he said a global citizen remote-worker regime could add to the potential inflow of people with disposable income.
“None of these categories of long-term visitor (or prospective resident) would seem to compete with local interests. Together they have the potential to offset some of the adverse economic consequences of lost tourism business, and even to provide new and previously unforeseen opportunities.”
- This story is part of a feature series this week looking at possible new niches for the tourism industry. Look out for stories every day on different sectors and the pros and cons of pursuing them to bring jobs and economic impact to the island.