Barbados is the best bet for digital nomads who dream of working in the everlasting tropical Caribbean sun, according to one of the latest surveys by UK real estate firm Savills plc.
Barbados ranked first among Caribbean nations and fifth in Savills’ Executive Nomad Index, a list that ranks the top 15 destinations for long-term remote workers.
The Savills Index ranks each country based on its 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 (St. Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, and the Bahamas) in all of these categories, with the sole exception of rent compared to Antigua, which outperformed the rest of the countries in the region in this aspect.
Competition is heating up between countries hungry for revenue – and in some cases talent – from digital nomads, mostly young professionals with money to spare and a desire to travel the world. From Latin America and the Caribbean to Europe, Africa and the Middle East, governments are launching special visa programs to attract remote workers for extended stays in destinations traditionally considered vacation spots .
“Executive nomads are turning what were once vacation home markets into year-round markets” – Savills
Barbados launched its own visa program for digital nomads (the Welcome Stamp) in mid-2020. As of March 2022, the country had received 3,511 applications for the program and had approved 2,308 (around 65%), 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 welcomed workers of all kinds of professions: engineers, computer scientists, architects, financiers, teachers, lawyers, etc.
The welcome stamp seems to work, although not cheap. Barbados will only grant visas to professionals who earn more than US$50,000 per year, and applicants must pay high stamp fees: US$2,000 for individuals and US$3,000 for entire families, this for a one-year stay, with option for renewal.
Nevertheless, the government offers tax breaks to foreigners who receive the stamp. They are exempt from income tax, which means they will only pay the country’s 17.5% VAT. Additionally, Barbados seeks to attract potential entrepreneurs by boasting a corporate tax rate of between 1% and 5.5%.
However, it’s not all about the money. A report by MBO Partners shows that around 41% of digital nomads are millennials and 21% are gen-zers, two generations known for their “wandering wanderlust,” according to analysis by Deloitte. This is playing into the hands of countries looking to capitalize on the remote working trend.
“Executive nomads are transforming what were once vacation home markets into year-round markets. Certain places in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, as well as cities such as Lisbon, Miami and Dubai, offer them connectivity, favorable climates and a high quality of life,” Savills said in his report.
Barbados is no exception. The Welcome Stamp site lists “quality of life”, “year-round sunshine” and “beaches, rum and fun” as strong reasons to choose the country as a destination for remote work. Most people point the finger at the beach and the weather when publicly commenting on their experience as digital nomads in Barbados. According to the Savills Index, the country outperforms other Caribbean destinations when it comes to climate and quality of life. Furthermore, all of the listed countries in the region had better climate scores than the others, even surpassing the top four (Lisbon, Miami, Dubai and Algarve).
About 41% of digital nomads are millennials and 21% are gen-zers, two generations known for their “wandering”
Reliable high-speed Internet access is crucial for remote workers. Barbados has the highest broadband internet speed in the Caribbean, with an average download speed of 56 Mbps, a point noted by Savills in its index. Additionally, the country’s network penetration rate exceeds 80%, a rarity in the region, according to World Bank data.
The Caribbean is ready to fight hard for the preference of digital nomads there. The region has been hit hard by Covid-19 related closures and travel restrictions due to the region being highly dependent on tourism. The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) recently launched a campaign alongside Airbnb to “welcome digital nomads to the region” with the aim of turning vacation spots into workplaces.
“The steady recovery of tourism in the Caribbean has been spurred by innovation and a willingness to seize opportunities, such as the rise of digital nomads and the development of extended stay programs to diversify the experience of visitors to the region. CTO is delighted that Airbnb has identified the Caribbean as one of the featured destinations in its global Live and Work Anywhere program and in doing so supports the continued success of the region,” said Faye Hill, Director of CTO. , in a press release.