The Caribbean paradise of St. Kitts and Nevis ticks all the boxes when planning an idyllic trip abroad, but it also could provide you with the perfect destination to move to full time. As well as offering an enviable lifestyle, the dual-island nation is an ideal landscape for budding entrepreneurs.
The country’s already-healthy economy is expected to grow by 3.2% GDP in 2019, and there are plenty of booming industries set to become even more important to its 56,000-strong population. Anyone thinking about turning their business idea into a reality should certainly consider the many opportunities the country has to offer.
St. Kitts and Nevis’s strongest business sectors
Perhaps the most notable industry in St. Kitts and Nevis is, unsurprisingly, tourism. The scenic islands attracted almost 150,000 visitors by plane in 2018, as well as a 15.3% increase in air arrivals through the first two months of 2019 alone. 2018 also saw over 1 million cruise passengers make their way to the islands. The country’s popularity as a holiday hotspot made the tourism sector the main contributor to St. Kitts and Nevis’ overall economic growth in that year, with hotels and restaurants performing particularly well. Several popular US airlines like Delta and United Airlines recently upped the number of direct flights to the destination, suggesting that the industry might be about to grow even more.
St. Kitts and Nevis’ manufacturing sector is also thriving, and the government expects further growth during 2019. The islands have been the primary exporter within the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) over the last decade, with its top international exports including electronic materials such as broadcasting equipment and electrical resistors. The government plans to make further improvements through its National Manufacturing Strategy, which aims to enhance productivity and boost its global market share. They intend to support this by finalising a preferential trade agreement with Brazil called the Partial Scope Agreement. With a promising future ahead, it would certainly pay to do business within the manufacturing sector.
Another flourishing industry is agriculture, particularly in the cultivation of onions, pineapples, and watermelons. Food production in St. Kitts and Nevis experienced a 22.5% year-on-year increase in 2017, and the country has also received financial support from Taiwan, to improve efficiency in its fruit and vegetable sector. Additionally, the nation is undergoing a construction boom thanks to the extensive work being done on many of its luxury hotels, as well as a second cruise pier. The Ritz Carlton hotel chain is also building a luxury resort scheduled to open in 2021.
How to start a business in St. Kitts and Nevis
Establishing a company in St. Kitts and Nevis is easier for citizens. However, it’s possible to gain the same rights by applying to join the nation’s citizenship by investment program. This scheme, which started in 1984, is the oldest of its kind, providing applicants with a St. Kitts and Nevis citizenship in exchange for financial investment. Applicants may make a donation to the country’s Sustainable Growth Fund, which is used to pay for infrastructural projects within the education,healthcare and other sectors.
Alternatively, they can make a contribution to the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation, investing in SMEs to develop economic growth away from the sugarcane industry. Or, they can buy government-approved real estate. There’s an Accelerated Application Process feature in place that allows successful applicants to receive a St. Kitts and Nevis citizenship and passport within 60 days, and have the right to live and work in the country.
Non-citizens will need to submit their business proposal to the government, ideally following a visit to the Inland Revenue Department which determines the taxes and licenses they’ll be liable for. They must also provide a fiscal incentives application, work permits for all employees, an Alien Landholding License, and an application to lease or rent the building they plan to work from. All company names must be registered, and licenses applied for, through the Ministry of Finance.
New business owners might even be able to take advantage of government financial aid. The Fresh Start Program helps fund the growth of startups and SMEs, and has already invested over £25 million to assist more than 500 companies. Small businesses will also soon have access to a £2.3 million funding pool, as a result of the CARICOM Development Fund signing a concessional loan agreement with the government. This aims to help entrepreneurs access technical and financial assistance while improving competitiveness, creativity, and capacity. Women and youth-based startups will benefit most, as well as companies in light manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, sustainability, and infrastructure.