The higher end of Cayman’s real estate industry has traditionally catered to an affluent North American market of investors and individuals looking to acquire a second or possibly third home, for investment purposes but also to enjoy with their family and friends periodically.
Opening up this market to a broader audience of investors via infrastructure improvements and the easing and improving of residency restrictions for people looking to reside here part or full-time could greatly improve Cayman’s real estate industry. This would ultimately be to the benefit of everyone who lives and works here. Creating an easier and more straightforward method by which residents can enter and leave Cayman would go a long way to attracting new investors to our shores.
Better long-haul access
Physically getting people to the island is absolutely crucial if we are to evolve our real estate industry into something greater and more sustainable than it is already. Ensuring that we have a runway at the Owen Roberts International Airport that is long and strong enough to accommodate long-haul flights from Europe is essential if we are to open up our real estate industry to new European markets and possibly even further afield in places such as Asia.
These are currently untapped markets for us but we have to do a better job in creating easier access for such potential clientele.
Ideally, people travelling from Europe would fly directly to the Cayman Islands, but even transiting via a major international hub such as Heathrow is bearable; asking them to make another transit via Miami or Bahamas is asking too much, in my opinion. We need a robust airport that can cater to long-haul flights thereby opening up the world to all that these wonderful islands can offer.
As a country I believe we could do a great deal more to announce to the world the fantastic benefits of investing in real estate in the Cayman Islands.
As far as I can tell there is a huge lack of public awareness overseas as to why people should invest here. It appears that the private sector is left up to themselves in branding the Cayman Islands as to how they see fit in order to derive business, rather than working with the government to create a consolidated brand, which I believe is a far better solution.
In addition, the private sector battles a considerable amount of negativity and misinformation purported overseas, which makes it even harder for businesses to attract overseas clients. I believe a good defense is a strong offence and we should be actively getting a clear message out as to why people should invest here. If the financial sector, government, the real estate industry and possibly the tourism industry, including the Department of Tourism, all work together on this I’m convinced it would be in Cayman’s interests and we would see a far greater rate of inward investment and tourism, though this will not happen overnight.
But once we have managed to attract investors to Cayman and have managed to physically bring them here, the response they receive ought to be one of welcome from everyone with whom they come into contact. Cayman needs to lead the globe in this. If our welcome is a genuine one, which can be heartfelt, it would be hard to beat. I’ve always believed it would be a good idea to employ one or two “Cayman Islands ambassadors” at the Owen Roberts Airport, who could hand out water and perhaps fruit punch to visitors and residents waiting in line to pass through Immigration. Perhaps they could be a source of local information for those waiting to enter the country. It would be good to put a pleasant and welcoming face on the islands at our visitors’ first port of call, thereby creating an excellent first impression which might help to persuade them to come back and possibly invest here. This would also be a great (and inexpensive) way for the country to welcome new residents to the island, a way to say that we are grateful they have chosen us as their new place of residence and we welcome them with open arms.
The issue of residency
There are a number of issues when it comes to the topic of residency for people from overseas and we need to get these issues corrected, because residency is inextricably linked to our real estate market.
Applying for permanent residency needs to be a straightforward process with as few hoops in which to jump through as possible. It also should be a speedy process that should not leave applicants hanging on for months on end. People looking to move to another jurisdiction do not do so without serious prior research. They plan their move, which is a costly process, and generally a huge deal for most people. Let’s make it an easy process and one which is clearly set out and simple to follow, with as little ambiguity as possible.
Opening up these islands to a wider audience of individuals looking for a second or third home has a positive spill down effect throughout our country, improving our real estate industry and strengthening other areas of industry, such as the hospitality and retail industries. A strong real estate industry is in everybody’s interests – it puts money back into our economy to the benefit of everyone who lives here, but it requires a concerted and coordinated effort from all interested parties if it is to grow to its full potential.