As I write these words, I’m sitting on the patio of my room at the spectacular Cabrits Kempinski Resort just outside Portsmouth, Dominica. The view is spectacular, overlooking a nearly deserted beach with the French island of Guadeloupe in the distance.
I’m here with my business partner Trey Wyatt for consultations with our contacts in this island country; officially, the “Commonwealth of Dominica”, to distinguish it from the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic.
Dominica is a 300-square-mile tropical island located about 1,400 miles southeast of Miami. It’s the northernmost and largest of the Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles and lies between the French territories of Guadeloupe and Martinique. Once a colony of France and later, Great Britain, Dominica achieved independence in 1978.
Mountainous and lacking the wide expansive beaches of other Caribbean islands, Dominica failed to develop a profitable tourist industry after independence. But beginning in the 1980s, the government sought to promote the island as an eco-tourist destination, even calling it “The Nature Island of the Caribbean.” Tourism now contributes millions of dollars to the economy each year, but the absence of a large international airport has hindered its growth.
In 1995, the country launched what is now the second-oldest citizenship by investment program in the world. It’s worth considering not only for the priceless asset of second citizenship, but also because the program directly benefits Dominica.
A Dominica passport gives you the right to travel to more than 140 countries visa-free, or with minimal visa formalities. This group includes all 27 countries in the European Union, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Singapore, the People’s Republic of China, and even Russia. It also lets you live and work in other members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Besides Dominica, this group of countries includes Antigua & Barbuda, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent & the Grenadines.
There are two options for citizenship-by-investment in Dominica.
Contribution option: The minimum contribution for citizenship and a passport is $100,000 for a single applicant. Larger contributions qualify your opposite-sex spouse and your dependent children under 30 for citizenship and a passport. You can also add older children with physical or mental disabilities and dependent parents and grandparents to your application.
The contribution is due only after the government approves your application. Additional costs come to about $30,000, making the total expenditure for a Dominica passport a minimum of $130,000 for a single applicant. Total costs including all fees for a husband and wife for this option come to about $185,000.
Real estate option: Alternatively, you may purchase qualifying real estate in Dominica with a minimum value of $200,000. Additional costs come to a minimum of $90,000.
The benefits of the funds raised by Dominica’s citizenship program became especially evident in the years following the passage of a Category 5 storm over the island in September 2017 – Hurricane Maria. With 160-mile per hour sustained winds battering Dominica for hours, more than 90% of the buildings on the island were either destroyed or heavily damaged.
Nearly six years later, there’s construction going on everywhere. Skeletons of ruined buildings dotting the landscape are slowly disappearing, and the government has spent tens of millions of dollars from the citizenship program to help rebuild homes for Dominica’s 70,000 residents.
As well, following Hurricane Maria, investors poured hundreds of millions of dollars into hotel development such as the Cabrits Kempinski Resort. But the success of these investments has been hampered by an old problem: the lack of a major international airport. Thus, this week, at the height of tourist season, our hotel is only 20% occupied. It’s great for visitors to be able to wander almost deserted beaches, but likely a disaster for the investors who poured untold millions of dollars into this property.
Indeed, Kempinski has announced that it will be withdrawing from its contract to manage the property at the end of this month. From that point forward, it will be managed by IHG Hotels and Resorts. Yet even a travel behemoth like IHG won’t be likely to make this property profitable unless it can boost occupancy rates. And that’s not likely to happen without greater airlift capacity into Dominica.
Fortunately, that’s about to change. In 2020, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit announced that the government had acquired more than 400 acres of land to construct a new state-of-the-art international airport. Skerrit claims that more than 20 airlines from the Caribbean, Europe and North America will use the facility. That’s in comparison to only one major airline that services the island currently (American, with flights each week from Miami) along with a handful of regional Caribbean airlines.
Construction is already underway; indeed, on the taxi ride from the airport to the Cabrits Kempinski Resort last night, we passed trucks heading into the construction zone. Completion of the project is scheduled for 2026.
Will the airport be enough to attract a larger number of tourists to Dominica? We think there’s an excellent chance that it will. Dominica offers a unique and idyllic tropical island experience. I’ve visited here numerous times and I’m always struck by its beauty, which in some respects resembles Hawaii’s.
In the meantime, the citizenship by investment program is alive and well. If you’d like to explore the benefits of obtaining a second citizenship and passport from Dominica, we can help. The Nestmann Group, Ltd. is one of only two US-based authorized agents for this program. For more information, contact us at email@example.com.