By Lina Saigol
Americans, it seems, can easily imagine themselves working from the sparkling beaches of the Caribbean.
Back in July, Barbados launched a new program giving people cooped up at home during the COVID-19 pandemic the chance to swap their desks and relocate to the remote island for up to a year.
From the archives (July 2020): Barbados is offering your cure for the work-from-home blues
Since then, the Barbados Welcome Stamp has drawn 675 applications from U.S. citizens, making them the largest nationality demonstrating keenness to bask under blue skies on white-sand beaches even while tethered to the office.
Access to the island was made easier in early October, when American Airlines (NAS:AAL) resumed flights from Miami International Airport to Grantley Adams International Airport. The carrier hopes to make the flight five times a week.
To date, there have been 1,693 applications from individuals and groups, accounting for 2,796 persons, Barbados authorities told MarketWatch.
The stamp costs $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for families . Applications processed by September had brought in $1 million — a figure tourism officials say is rising daily.
“It has been fantastic — the announcement of the welcome stamp went viral,” said Eusi Skeete, U.S. director of Visit Barbados, to MarketWatch.
“Within the first week, we received more than a thousand applications from around the world! We continue to encourage remote workers to take full advantage of the Barbados Welcome Stamp, as it’s truly a mutually beneficial initiative for both travelers and our island,” Skeete added.
In order to be considered for the Welcome Stamp, U.S. applicants are required to earn at least $50,000 per year and have health insurance.
Canadians accounted for the next biggest group of subscribers, with 283 citizens hoping to trade their notoriously cold winters for warmer shores.
In third place were Brits (231), followed by Ireland (42) and Italy (16).
Several other countries, including Estonia and Georgia , have launched similar initiatives offering visas for so-called digital nomads to temporarily relocate, in an effort to boost their tourism numbers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Cris Torres, who is from Barcelona and was the first person to land in Barbados under the program, the experience has been everything she hoped for.
“I had heard about the Welcome Stamp Programme and was very interested, but thought it would take some time to be initiated, so I went to Martinique with the intention of staying for three months until the program got up and running. But in a week, the website was up and I was able to apply and receive my approval,” Torres told a welcome dinner hosted by Barbados Tourism Marketing on Nov. 4.
“I have never been to Barbados, and now [that] I’m here I’m glad that I chose the island to be my new home,” Torres added.
Lisa Cummins, minister of tourism and international transport, said that the program had attracted people from all walks of life, including young entrepreneurs and business people who were traveling in other parts of the world and made their way to Barbados after hearing about the Welcome Stamp.
Cummins said the government was now putting measures in place to roll out the second wave of the Welcome Stamp initiative.