by Marlon Madden
The man behind the idea for the 12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp initiative is urging small hoteliers who continue to experience low occupancy levels to make changes to their operation so they could take advantage of the long-term tourists.
At the same time, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Remote Work (Barbados) Inc. Peter Thompson, has highlighted several areas where he said close attention should be paid if the island was to continue to reap dividends from the initiative that was introduced a year ago.
The 12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp is aimed at attracting individuals from around the
globe to work remotely in Bridgetown for up to a year while contributing to the economy. They have the option of reapplying for the visa once their time has expired.
Pointing out that the welcome stamp visitors needed certain things that a regular tourist did not, Thompson said this included fast and reliable internet access and help with getting their children in the local school system.
“Our usual hotel accommodation does not include good ergonomic office chairs and workspace. They need this. They need help with our banking system.
These are people who are used to opening a bank account on their computer screen in less than 15 minutes. It absolutely astounds them what they have to go through to set up a simple bank account in Barbados,” he said.
“They need help with all the other idiosyncrasies of Barbadian life . . . We need to get them to understand our chaotic transportation system. We need to help them make the right decisions for their comfort level between the ZRs and the lovely electric buses and taxis.
We need the taxi industry to standardise rates so that people do not get to feel ripped off,” added Thompson. He was addressing the recent annual general meeting of the Intimate Hotels of Barbados (IHB).
The management consultant of over 30 years, said the welcome stamp visitors usually “work hard and play hard”, adding that they were highly paid and were “passionately interested in exploring all of the island’s cuisine”.
He argued that those who had suitable long-term rental accommodation aimed specifically at remote workers stood to make “excellent profits”.
What is more, Thompson said it made sense for operators of small hotels with self-catering capabilities to “configure them for long-term rates that make sense and keep your occupancy levels up all year”.
“There are exciting opportunities for growth available to the Intimate Hotels of Barbados.
I recognise that not everyone’s property is configured to accommodate long-term rentals to welcome stamp visitors,” he said.
“I believe we currently have a room inventory of about 2,600 suitable rentals consisting of villas, Airbnb and self-catering apartment hotels.
However, we have already had 1,900 successful visa applications, of which about a third have arrived on island so far,” he said, adding that he expected a lot more people to take advantage of the Welcome Stamp initiative as restrictions continued to ease.
Thompson described the Welcome Stamp as the most successful example of adapting to the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic while simultaneously diversifying the tourism product and market base in a sustainable way.
Adding that the IHB had the opportunity to spearhead the marketing for the new scheme since the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. was tasked with an overall promotion of the island’s tourism offerings, Thompson said he was optimistic that it will grow in the long-term.
Among the criteria for the Welcome Stamp visa is that individuals should be earning at least US$50,000 per year and have insurance coverage or have an arrangement in place to get one on island. The cost for the visa is US$2,000 per person or US$3,000 per family.