Nearshore Americas

Robust ICT is a Major Factor as Barbados Wins More Acclaim as Digital Nomad Hotspot

Barbados is the best bet for digital nomads who dream of working under the ever-lasting tropical sun of the Caribbean, according to one of the latest surveys conducted by British real estate agency Savills plc.

Barbados ranked first amongst Caribbean countries and fifth overall in Savills’s Executive Nomad Index, a list that ranks the top 15 destinations for long-term remote workers. 

Savills’s index ranks each country depending on their overall performance in five different areas: Internet speed, quality of life, climate, air connectivity and prime residential rents. Barbados outperformed the other Caribbean destinations listed (Saint Lucia, Antigua & Barbuda and The  Bahamas) in all of those categories, with the only exception being rent when compared with Antigua, which outperformed the rest of the region’s countries in that aspect.

Competition is intensifying amongst countries craving the income -and in some cases the talent– of digital nomads, most of them young professionals with money to spare and an urge to travel the world. From Latin America and the Caribbean to Europe, Africa and the Middle East, governments are launching special visa programs to lure remote workers for prolonged stays in destinations that were traditionally considered vacation spots.

“Executive nomads are turning what were previously holiday-homes markets into year-round ones”– Savills

Barbados launched its own visa program for digital nomads (the Welcome Stamp) in mid-2020. As of march of 2022, the country received 3,511 applications for the program and approved 2,308 (about 65%) of them, according to government data. Almost two thirds of the applicants were individuals, and most of them came from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Nigeria and Ireland. Barbados has received workers from all sorts of professions: engineers, IT specialists, architects, financiers, teachers, lawyers, etc. 

The Welcome Stamp seems to be working, even when it doesn’t come cheap. Barbados will only give visas to professionals who win over US$50,000 a year, and applicants are required to pay a hefty fee for the stamp: US$2,000 for individuals and US$3,000 for whole families, this for a one-year stay, with option for renewal. 

Nonetheless, the government offers tax reliefs to foreigners who receive the stamp. They are exempt from paying income tax, meaning that they’ll only pay the country’s 17.5% VAT. Also, Barbados seeks to lure potential entrepreneurs touting a corporate tax rate of between 1% and 5.5%. 

Not everything is about money, though. A report by MBO Partners shows that around 41% of digital nomads are millennials and 21% are gen-zers, both generations known for their “wanderlust”, according to an analysis done by Deloitte. This plays into the hands of countries looking to capitalize on the trend of remote work. 

“Executive nomads are turning what were previously holiday-homes markets into year-round ones. Certain locations in the Caribbean and Mediterranean, as well as cities such as Lisbon, Miami and Dubai, offer them connectivity, favourable climates and a high quality of life,” said Savills in its report. 

Barbados is no exception. The Welcome Stamp site points to “quality of life”, “year-round sunshine” and “beaches, rum and fun” as good reasons to choose the country as a destination for remote work. Most people point to the beach and weather when publicly commenting on their experience as digital nomads in Barbados. According to the Savills index, the country outperforms other destinations in the Caribbean when it comes to climate and quality of life. Also, all the listed countries from the region had better climate scores than the rest, surpassing even the top four (Lisbon, Miami, Dubai and Algarve).

Around 41% of digital nomads are millennials and 21% are gen-zers, both generations known for their ‘wanderlust

Reliable broadband Internet access is crucial for remote workers. Barbados has the highest broadband Internet speed in the Caribbean, with an averaged download speed of 56Mbps, a point noted by Savills in its index. Also, the country’s network penetration rate is over 80%, a rarity in the region, according to data by the World Bank.

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The Caribbean is poised to fight hard for the preference of digital nomads out there. The region was hit hard by the lockdowns and travel restrictions that came with Covid-19 due to the fact that the region is very tourism-dependent. The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) recently launched a campaign alongside Airbnb to “welcome digital nomads to the region” in an attempt to turn vacation spots into work stations.

“The steady recovery of Caribbean tourism has been driven by innovation and a willingness to seize opportunities, like the rise of digital nomads and development of long stay programmes to diversify the visitor experience in the region. The CTO is pleased that Airbnb has identified the Caribbean as one to highlight in its global Live and Work Anywhere program, and in doing so, support the continued success of the region,” Faye Hill, CTO director, in a press release.  

 

Cesar Cantu

Cesar is the Managing Editor of Nearshore Americas. He's a journalist based in Mexico City, with experience covering foreign trade policy, agribusiness and the food industry in Mexico and Latin America.

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