The Turks and Caicos Islands are often described as the Caribbean’s best kept secret: two groups of tropical islands spanning 170 square miles, known primarily for upscale tourism. After his party’s landslide victory in February, Washington Misick is now Prime Minister – a post he first held in the 1990s. Misick, who leads the development of the British Overseas Territory in various capacities for more than 30 years, is on the verge of transforming the economy of the islands in the wake of the pandemic.
How do you plan to boost the economy following the pandemic?
Fortunately, the Turks and Caicos have built up healthy financial reserves and our credit rating is fantastic for a small economy. We’re doing better than others in the region and aiming for a V-shaped recovery to bounce back and even surpass pre-COVID levels.
It is crucial here to create an even more favorable environment for investors and to improve the ease of doing business. Diversifying the economy beyond tourism is also essential to mitigate the impact of any future pandemic.
The Turks and Caicos Islands are strategically located near our main tourist market, North America. Air links and high-speed internet connectivity are among the best in the region.
We have an investment pipeline of nearly half a billion US dollars and one of our priorities is to continue to attract foreign direct investment in the hospitality sector.
Economic growth must include social cohesion, sustainability and environmental protection. We have just approved a master plan for physical development with stricter requirements for the protection of the environment and biodiversity, because everyone who lives in the Turks and Caicos Islands depends on a thriving environment, directly or indirectly.
“Economic growth must include social cohesion, sustainability and environmental protection. All who live in the Turks and Caicos Islands depend on a prosperous environment, directly or indirectly.”
How do you want to position the Turks and Caicos Islands as a tourist destination?
We have always strived to respond to the upper end of the market and this investment has paid off. We are a small destination with a fragile ecosystem, and our product is of superior quality and therefore very expensive.
We favor the condominium-resort model, which consists of private properties supervised by professional hotel management companies. This makes it easier to finance projects because many condominium units are sold before being built.
Real estate prices have risen dramatically throughout the pandemic, as real estate transactions and construction activity have kept the economy running. The pace of construction on the island is high and the key issue is to manage it in a sustainable manner.
What other investment opportunities do the Turks and Caicos Islands offer?
The Turks and Caicos Islands were once at the forefront of the global financial services industry, but we have lost that status. Global finance has evolved since the days when people were looking for ways to evade taxes, and we have nothing to offer in that regard.
Based on our strategic location, political stability and low crime rates, we offer excellent conditions to house the headquarters of regional companies as well as their staff and families. Since there is no arbitration center in the Caribbean, we also see an opportunity to establish the first one here.
Improving the ease of doing business – especially clean business – is part of our efforts to diversify the economy. We want to attract digital nomads able to develop products from the Turks and Caicos Islands. A low impact destination is ideal for professionals working in tech or online and for people who can and want to work remotely in a safe and beautiful location. To this end, we are also revising our immigration policy to offer long-term residency to these professionals.
“A low impact destination is ideal for people who can and want to work remotely in a safe and beautiful location, so we are revising our immigration policy to provide long term residency for these professionals.”
What is being done to reassure tourists that the Turks and Caicos Islands are a safe destination?
We have created the “TCI Assured” portal on which all visitors must register before going here. Additional features are added to improve the arrival experience and make immigration and customs clearance completely transparent.
We also work in partnership with the resort industry. Most of our larger properties offer lateral flow testing for the convenience of their guests, which is essential, especially before returning to the United States and a number of other countries.
Considering the strong regional competition, why do you want the Turks and Caicos Islands to be known internationally?
Most Caribbean tourist destinations have more or less similar offers. In contrast, our hospitality industry ranks first in a number of different hotel and resort rankings.
Our goal is to maintain this competitive advantage as a premier five-star destination. We will put more and more emphasis on the environment and the fact that we are clean and safe, and that the rule of law applies here. In addition, the US dollar is the official currency.
We are a family destination and most of our visitors are intergenerational families who stay one or two weeks. The popularity of the Turks and Caicos as a second home destination is also increasing due to the lack of restrictions on ownership or repatriation of profits.
Overall, the Turks and Caicos Islands are ideal for second home owners – especially North Americans, because they are so close – while generally being a great place to live, work, and visit.
What best qualifies your leadership for the islands?
My experience above all. I see myself as an institution builder and have made significant contributions to institutions that empower people.
I believe in lifelong learning and growth. My goal has always been to look at global trends, what worked and what didn’t, embracing the good and eliminating the bad.
I believe in inclusive growth and whether or not you work, rich or poor, there are minimum standards and quality of life below which people should never fall in a progressive and democratic country.
I want to provide a wider safety net of social institutions by improving existing ones and building new ones. The Scandinavian model is a guide in terms of policy direction.
Moreover, just as little Singapore has become a leader in terms of prosperity in East Asia, I hope that the Turks and Caicos Islands can become the most admired and progressive little nation in the Caribbean.