The Caribbean becomes nomadic | New

Six years ago, Ronald Ndoro Mind felt the need to combine work and travel in a way that few in these regions had envisioned. With his businesses doing well, the idea of ​​leaving England’s “gloomy, cold, gloomy winter by 4pm” and working remotely seemed appealing.

“It was the desire to travel while being able to be productive and work that was key,” Mind said. The Sunday Gleaner.

At first he did it in patches, said the businessman, who has successfully created, managed and left many companies around the world.

In 2019, shortly before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mind decided to work remotely from Antigua, sparking much excitement mixed with apprehension from colleagues and friends.

“It’s always that fear of the unknown and that adjustment that people have to make when they realize you won’t be just around the corner to play the role you normally play in their lives,” he said. -he explains.

DECISION TO REMAIN INDEFINITELY

He intended to spend “a few months at a time” in St John’s, but the pandemic changed everything. Having felt like he was working remotely in the Caribbean, he now intends to stay indefinitely to enjoy the outdoors and a relaxed life all year round while scheduling his work day to coincide with working hours. work loaded in London.

“My day is a lot more focused, but also gives me time to do some fun extracurricular activities with the family,” said Mind, who is also an Entrepreneur in Residence at London South Bank University, where he mentors, lectures and leads workshops with students. “I just feel like I have more time for everything. Not having to move around also helps. The most obvious attraction is the sunshine all year round and the many benefits that come with it.

Like Mind, Jan Mintowt, a partner in a UK financial services company, has moved to Antigua, but still works in London.

Two and a half years ago, Mintowt and his Barbados-born wife chose Antigua as their favorite Caribbean destination to raise their two young daughters. Among the qualifying factors was the ease with which he was able to return to England to work part of the year, fearing his colleagues would believe he was spending his time in the Caribbean on vacation.

“As soon as you mention the Caribbean, everyone thinks you’re on the beach with a cocktail all day, or on a yacht or have that kind of vacation lifestyle,” Mintowt said. The Sunday Gleaner. “Of course you don’t have a vacation lifestyle. You do the same thing that you do anywhere else in the world.

However, it is the vacation lifestyle that some Caribbean countries are promoting to attract COVID-19 weary workers to their shores.

“Are you sick of wave after wave of foreclosure, continuous uncertainty, and staring at the same four walls every day?” ”, Asks Dominica on its Work in Nature website, which has a video of carnival, dance, food and many idyllic scenes from nature. “We understand you. This is why we have created a Work In Nature (WIN) Extended Stay Visa – so that you and your family can come to the natural Caribbean island and live and work here for a while.

THEIR ADS

“Lose the Crowd, Find Yourself” from Anguilla. Job. Life. Bliss’s website shows a man with a laptop sitting on a patio inches from the beautiful white sands and turquoise waters, similar to a photo on Aruba’s “One Happy Workation” website, where a man with feet naked in shorts, shirt and tie sits at a desk under a thatched umbrella surrounded by the beach and crystal clear Caribbean waters.

COVID-19 has made many employers and employees realize that it is possible to be productive while working away from the office. And even as businesses slowly began to reopen, a small but growing number of people are choosing to become digital nomads – remote workers who roam the world.

According to MBO Partners, a business management software company in Virginia, USA that specializes in digital nomadism, the number of digital nomads in the United States has reached 15.5 million this year, a phenomenal increase of 112. % compared to 7.3 million in 2019, and 42% more than 10.9 million in 2020.

“Digital nomadism is a viable tourism niche for Caribbean countries,” said McLean Robbins, vice president of corporate marketing at MBO Partners. The Sunday Gleaner. “Nomads seek places that offer new experiences, as well as those that are conducive and suitable for living and working for long periods of time. The countries of the Caribbean, with their easy access from the United States, relatively low cost of living, attractive climate and landscapes, are all uniquely positioned to take advantage of this trend. “

Barbados was the first Caribbean destination to jump head first into the digital nomadism basin in August 2020 with the launch of a 12-month welcome visa program. In the months that followed, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Montserrat and Puerto Rico launched similar programs, with Grenada on the verge of test the waters. Most of these visas come with a substantial fee and proof of income or a healthy bank account.

The economic impact of these remote work programs is not yet known, but tourism officials and policymakers insist that digital nomads have breathed new life into an industry left on a fan and at its wit’s end. of breath by COVID-19.

Aruba reported that about 13,700 visitors have arrived there for “construction” since last September. Bermuda said it has received around 1,000 requests since last August. And Barbados said its Welcome Stamp visa has attracted nearly 5,000 new visitors since last June, more than 3,000 with their spouses and 1,100 with their dependents.

“We have succeeded in making up for the loss of short-term travel by attracting long-term visitors instead who stay with us for a year or more,” Lisa Cummins, Minister of Tourism for Barbados, said in a statement. recent press conference organized by the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

However, not everyone is convinced that digital nomadism is the way to revive tourism in the Caribbean, especially as the world has moved away from lockdowns.

Jamaican Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett believes the focus should instead continue to be on the type of tourist who drives tough economic outcomes, while digital nomadism can be an add-on, wherever possible.

“We have no difficulty in bringing digital nomads into our space. What we wouldn’t do is make them a demographic of choice in the context of our industry’s full recovery trend right now, ”Bartlett said. The Sunday Gleaner.

The Minister is particularly concerned about whether the Caribbean has the required infrastructure – most importantly, high-quality and reliable internet connectivity – to satisfy the digital nomads, who are largely professional, highly skilled, educated and often very well paid.

Among digital nomads surveyed by MBO Partners this year, 19% are working in IT – 7% more than in 2020 and more than any other profession – while 77% said they use technology to get more. competitive in their work, compared to 41% of those who are not digital nomads.

RANKING OF SPEED TESTS

Yet of the 181 countries listed in the World Speedtest Index for September 2021, only Barbados, with an average download speed of 109.41 Mbps of fixed broadband (ranked 43rd in the world), reached the minimum speed of 100. Mbps required for efficient remote work. . Jamaica, with an average daily speed of 37.84 Mbps, was ranked 102.

“If you don’t have a good internet connection, if you don’t have good facilities, if you don’t have the range of requirements, it will damage your reputation, and you shouldn’t do it” a warned Dimitrios Buhalis, professor of tourism at the University of Bournemouth in the United Kingdom.

“The worst thing that can happen is you promise something that you can’t keep,” the professor explained. “And we’ve seen that a lot in tourism. “

It’s a lesson Barbados learned the hard way after Hong Kong freelance journalist and digital nomad Andrea Lo suffered massive culture shock when she moved to Bridgetown on the long-stay visa.

Having faced frequent incidents of harassment that left her filled with anxiety, Lo left the island after just four and a half months and published her story.

“None of the research I did before my move indicated what I was going to go through,” she wrote. “Much of what happened was completely unexpected. Perhaps the best advice I can give, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. “

Lo’s story rocked tourism officials in Barbados and sent them scrambling to deal with the potential fallout. And while there is no evidence that the work order program was fatally injured, Carlos Munoz, Airbnb’s director of public policy, stressed the importance of full transparency.

“With regard to digital nomads, I think it is important for destinations in their marketing that they are very transparent about what is available and what is not for tourists or the visitor so that expectations can realistically be met on arrival, ”said Munoz. The Sunday Gleaner.

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