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THE BARBADIAN government is planning to extend its Work from Paradise scheme into 2021.

More than 360 Britons took up the offer to live and work remotely in Barbados for one year when it introduced its Welcome Stamp visa back in July. The initiative quickly set a trend among neighbouring Caribbean islands and even sparked a Channel4 documentary that followed the lives of the digital nomads, who had packed up and moved during the UK lockdown.

Lisa Cummins, Barbados’ minister of tourism and international transport, said the number one question being asked this year was “is the scheme going to be extended?”.

“The world that the Welcome Stamp responded to hasn’t changed: we are still dealing with covid, we are still dealing with lockdowns. People are still unable to go into their offices in the same way, and so there will be discussion about what an extension would look like but we expect to be able to respond to the demands of the market and the demands are most definitely there,” she added.

When the pandemic hit and international flights were grounded, the tourism-dependent island was forced to rethink how it might attract visitors. “It became difficult for short-term travellers to travel to a country and more people kept saying ‘my country is going into lockdown, I’m able to work from home, and home can be anywhere’. So people started to say ‘why not work from Barbados for a year?’ and this is what we started to put together. We saw remote workers. We saw persons who were in technology, we saw people who work in government, opting to work from here in Barbados,” said Ms Cummins.

The Barbados Welcome Stamp visa costs £1,450 (US$2,000) and £2,180 ($3,000) for a family, with applicants required to earn £36,000 ($US50,000) a year. With faster wifi than the UK and the average day-time temperature of 29C, thousands took up the invitation. The greatest numbers travelled from the US and Canada. More than 3,500 were accepted.

When overseas travel is allowed once again and lockdown rules are eased, the island will hope to lure even more remote-workers to replace their usual flow of sun-seeking holidaymakers. In 2019, before the pandemic, the island welcomed more than 500,000 visitors.

A surprising benefit of the scheme said Ms Cummins was that those who moved then brought over family members, which had created a “positive multiplying effect”. Also they sent their children to local instead of international schools.

“Many of the persons who were looking to come to Barbados wanted the authentic Barbadian experience. They did not want to feel like they were expatriates and they didn’t want to feel like they were visitors. They wanted their children to go to local schools, to  integrate with the Barbadian family.

“People are coming to feel safe, people are coming to escape their home countries in terms of covid infection rates. They are also coming for an authentic year abroad experience and that’s really the best we can offer them,” Ms Cummins added.

There have been 3,629 cases of coronavirus in Barbados with 41 deaths. The vaccine rollout has seen more than 10% of the population receive their first dose.

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