A small Caribbean archipelago of 40 islands WITH a population of around 35,000, the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) stands out as a global example of grit, stability and preparedness
Yes, Turks and Caicos is replete with idyllic scenes – white sand beaches gently merging with turquoise water, tropical fish dancing atop coral reefs, and warm locals who welcome visitors with a smile. Yet, this small nation is so much more than a sunny holiday destination, proving itself in recent years to be resilient, strong and innovative.
In September 2017, TCI was dealt a one-two punch, struck first by Hurricane Irma and then just weeks later by Hurricane Maria. Due to its geographical position 960km south of Miami and 660km north of Puerto Rico, both storms hit the nation hard. However, unlike many neighbouring countries, which effectively collapsed, TCI stood out for its remarkable recovery.
“It was devastating, but we were able to bounce back much better than we or even the rest of the world thought,” says Angela Musgrove, former acting CEO of Invest Turks and Caicos. “While the storms exposed where the weak areas are, they also exposed our strengths.”
Though certain infrastructure had to be restored, the country’s airport quickly opened, as did the vast majority of its resorts and businesses.
“We were regional leaders in early recovery because of creative policies that did things like eliminate red tape for the electricity company to reconnect homes and encourage the telecoms to rebuild resiliently,” explains Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, TCI’s premier. The nation’s strict building codes, community spirit, reliable insurers and strong partnerships with global development organisations also contributed to the recovery.
In 2018, the country’s GDP grew by 2.6%, fuelled mainly by construction and new tourism development, making it one of the fastest growing economies in the region. Tourism has long been the backbone of the country’s economy, and for good reason. TCI is surrounded by the world’s third-largest coral reef, hosts the unique Chalk Sound National Park, historical monuments, some of the world’s best-rated beaches and year-round warm weather.
A top destination frequented by many A-list celebrities, TCI offers guests world-class luxury. Brad Pitt, Rihanna and Cara Delevingne have all recently spent their holidays on the islands, while Prince, Keith Richards and Bruce Willis have all been the owners of gorgeous TCI homes. Yet, these holidays are not just for the privileged few. The country offers a growing range of options for all kinds of visitors while it also develops new niche tourism segments.
With incentives for investors and a Standards & Poor’s (S&P) sovereign rating of BBB+, Turks and Caicos is hoping more foreign capital will be injected into tourism, as well as other sectors like renewable energy, technology, infrastructure, light manufacturing or one of many shovel-ready investment projects.
The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) is predicting a 3.5% increase in real GDP for Turks and Caicos in 2019.
Weekly flights to international locations from TCI. The majority go to North America, but there are two weekly flights to London.
“There is no daylight between our two political parties when it comes to FDI,” explains Ariel Misick, founder and senior partner of the Misick & Stanbrook law firm. “It is considered the main engine to achieve economic growth.”
Having successfully recovered from the hurricanes, TCI, a British Overseas Territory, is now caught up in the political storm of Brexit. This tempest, however, is being embraced with optimism.
“I suspect Brexit will provide a greater incentive for UK residents to relocate to TCI, given the benefits that they can achieve through investing in an overseas territory as opposed to in the UK,” says Musgrove.