Dr. Suzette Haughton is a Senior Lecturer and Head of the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies.
The most striking developments to watch for in 2021 are further efforts by Caribbean governments to stimulate and facilitate travel. There is perhaps nowhere in the world that relies on tourism and investment migration sectors more than the Caribbean, a region in which tourism alone contributes 33% of GDP and more than 52% of export receipts.
More than 30 million visitors travel to the Caribbean each year, and 413,000 tourism workers are employed in the region — 18.1% of total employment on average. If indirect employment is considered, this rises to around 90% in countries like Antigua and Barbuda. Equally importantly, Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Lucia all see significant revenues from their citizenship-by-investment (CBI) programs. For example, in 2019, the Antigua and Barbuda Citizenship-by-Investment Program generated close to USD 36.8 million.
Although travel restrictions inflicted by Covid-19 have impeded inbound travel, Caribbean authorities are finding solutions to restart the tourism sector and to expand CBI program offerings. In May 2020, St. Lucia introduced a new Covid-19 Relief Bond option in response to the coronavirus pandemic. To qualify, a minimum investment of USD 250,000 in a non–interest-bearing government bond that is held for five years is required. In an effort to revitalize tourism in the Commonwealth of Dominica, the ‘Safe in Nature Programme’ was launched in October. The government allocated XCD 17.5 million to market and improve access to the island nation and energize the tourism, international transport, and maritime sectors. The establishment of Dominica’s Entrepreneurship Visa program is another regional initiative to boost travel mobility and investment. This flagship program is designed to grant investors Dominican residency once they have established business ventures in the Commonwealth of Dominica.
Caribbean island nations have also used long-stay visa options, their relatively low Covid-19 infection rates, their remoteness, and their reputations as luxury destinations to promote increased travel mobility in the region. For instance, Antigua and Barbuda has established the Nomad Digital Residence program, allowing visitors to stay and work remotely from Antigua for up to two years while living on the highly sought-after and well-equipped island. In November 2020, Jamaica launched its Resilient Corridors and Jamaica Cares initiatives, designed to deliver an alternative yet comprehensive, safe, and secure vacation experience. The former creates corridors encompassing the country’s main tourism areas where visitors can enjoy vacationing while maintaining the requisite health protocols, and the latter provides a travel insurance and crisis response plan.
In the year ahead we may see the introduction of e-visas prior to visitor arrivals, issuance of visas on arrival at ports of entry, the removal of visa restrictions, and permanent or temporary removal of visa charges — all of which will serve to foster greater travel mobility.
Government of Antigua and Barbuda. 2019 Antigua and Barbuda Recurrent and Development Estimates. Antigua: 2019, accessed November 27, 2020.
Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica. The National Budget of The Commonwealth of Dominica Fiscal Year 2020–2021: The Road to Dynamic Dominica Fostering Economic Resilience. Presented by The Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance. 28 July 2020. Commonwealth of Dominica: 2020, accessed November 13, 2020.
International Labour Organization. Tourism Sector in the English- and Dutch-Speaking Caribbean: An Overview and the Impact of COVID-19 on Growth and Employment. Trinidad and Tobago: 2020, accessed November 13, 2020.
Major, Brian. “How Jamaica Is Attracting Visitors in the COVID-19 Era.” TravelPulse. Northstar Travel Media, LLC., November 10, 2020.