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Expat Investor : January February 2008
PROPERTY INVESTMENT January/February 2008 EXPAT INVESTOR 21 Imagine lounging on your own private veranda with the sound of the Caribbean Sea washing the beach, yards from your feet, whilst at the same time indulging in a little mental arithmetic. Those property investors who snapped up the first release of apartments at St Lucia's newest resort, The Landings, are doing just that. "Our present owners have doubled the value of their purchase money in two years," confirms sales director Oliver Gobat. And it's not too late to get a slice of the action, as The Landings officially opened with the release of its second phase of apartment sales only last December. The Landings is situated on Rodney Bay, in the north-west of St Lucia, on 19 acres of beachfront. The apartments have been built around an award-winning 60-berth harbour which was created from reclaimed land on the Pigeon Island causeway. This situation means property owners overlook both the Atlantic Ocean to their west, and the Caribbean Sea to their east. Amenities include a seaside beach club, a restaurant and bar on the pier, a fitness club and a 7,000sq ft spa with treatment rooms, swimming pool, hot tubs and tennis club. The island is well served with golf clubs and apartment owners benefit from discounted green fees negotiated by The Landings' management. Given that The Landings has attracted some canny property investors (including the well-known TV personality Carol Vorderman), it's worth looking at what the deal promises. Rock Resorts is a US-based company and manages some of the world's most luxurious resorts such as Hotel Jerome in Aspen and The Pine Lodge in Beaver Creek, Colarado. This is the company administering the rental pool of The Landings' apartments, overseeing concierge duties, co-ordinating utilities and managing the maintenance of the common areas, all of which ensures the quality of the development will remain as good five years down the line as it did when first built. By joining the rental pool, your investment stands to make a tidy return on the initial purchase price. Mr Gobat estimates an income stream offering a potential return of 8% net return by 2010/11. Those purchasers entering into the rental scheme are offered a fixtures, fittings and furnishing choice between a traditional or contemporary style. Gary Thulander, General Manager, emphasises the importance of collaboration with purchasers to establish how the apartments are finished. This approach minimises complaints and objections on standards of quality from the apartments' visitors. Whilst fixtures are not included in the purchase price, (a sum of US$64,000 is required to furnish a one bedroom apartment, for example) the overall maintenance and repair strategy including housekeeping and concierge services are all part of the managed rental service. It is the quality of the fixtures and fittings, together with the high levels of maintenance, that sways many buyers. "Brochures and websites could not have prepared us for this standard of finish. We anticipated walking into a high-quality property, Landing in the lap of luxury of the Central Bank of Ireland in establishing a financial services authority. It hopes that enabling legislation will be processed within the next six months. What's more St Lucia is actively seeking out partner jurisdictions to set up as many double taxation treaties as possible -- welcome news for property-owning expatriates seeking to alleviate harsh tax duties when remitting income into other countries. Tourism already accounts for 47% of the Island's GDP, but once Senator Chastanet's ministerial projects are under way, this percentage is likely to escalate rapidly. The Minister is not averse to a little number crunching when he looks at what has happened to two similarly attractive islands nearby, Barbados and Aruba. Barbados has 300,000 annual British visitors compared to St Lucia's current total of 85,000. Aruba plays host to some 500,000 annual US visitors, while St Lucia welcomes just 100,000. As Senator Chastanet says, "The potential for growth on this Island is massive." And, if he and his team succeed, a steady stream of visitors will translate into significant rental income at key luxury resorts such as The Landings. Enough to make property owners shout like a Caribbean tree frog from the top of the palm tree. Castries, the capital city, including its marina and tourist attractions. All of which impacts directly upon the value and income potential for property owners investing in the Island's accommodation. Senator Chastanet confirms that legislation is imminent enabling foreigners investing at least US$500,000 in property on the island to be automatically classified as residents. "You can do everything but vote as you are not buying a passport," explains the Minister. St Lucia's other news is the impending expansion of its offshore financial services industry. The Minister confirms that the Government has sought the advice but as soon as we saw the fixtures and fittings, we realised that we own something quite exceptional," comments new owner John Robertson. Reflecting on a private veranda that could accommodate two separate lounging parties of eight, a private dining area for the same number, a hot tub, and additional space to swing a proverbial bagful of cats, it struck me that the architectural feel is somewhere between Graham Greene and Lawrence of Arabia. Creamy colonnaded spaces are complemented by coral coloured marbled surfaces and framed by Arabic-style cathedral ceilings, arches, and latticed windows. St Lucia has long attracted an international jet-set seeking rest and recuperation. The rain forest, which covers most of the island, is verdant and luscious. And after you've astonished your sight with the colours of the local flora and fauna at the Botanical Gardens in Soufriere, you can sate your appetite with sumptuous, locally-sourced dishes prepared by a growing number of world-class chefs. Drawn by demand, these masters of cuisine are establishing themselves along a ribbon of water- front restaurants, creating art on a plate out of locally caught fish and a variety of delicious fresh produce. The island's growing number of organic farmers are encouraged by their government to join various agricultural schemes designed to reduce the reliance on imported foods. St Lucia's tourism industry is benefiting from a complete face-lift under the energetic and imaginative control of the Minister of Tourism & Civil Aviation, Senator Allen Chastanet. He was responsible for establishing the Island's popular jazz festival back in 1999 which has become an annual May fixture in the diaries of international jazz artists. Senator Chastanet's immediate task is the overseeing of a 12 year, French aid-funded project that will completely renovate Hannah Beecham reports from St Lucia on the opening of a beach-front property development, The Landings. Key facts Location: Rodney Bay, north-west St Lucia. Transport: Direct flights into Hewanorra International Airport. XL Airline currently selling return tickets (Gatwick-St Lucia-Gatwick) for £250. Situation: 19 acres of beach-front, surrounding private yacht harbour. Accommodation: all units sold freehold. One, two and three bedrooms, all en suite, with two private verandas and private hot tub. Price: ranges from US$550,000 (£340,000) to US$1,690,000 (£817,000). Website: www.thelandingsstlucia.com From the top Expat Investor asked the Prime Minister of St Lucia, the Honourable Stephenson King, on the occasion of The Landings' opening, how such tourist developments will benefit the local economy. Q: What do you believe The Landings will contribute towards the economy of St Lucia? A. What I'm seeing is a most impressive investment, the quality of work is exceptional. It certainly represents another notch in the industry and for St Lucia a significant contribution towards the tourism industry. Because of the quality of the resort, and the quality of clientele that is expected here it means that the contribution to the economy is going to be magnificent. As a government we really want to provide an enabling environment that will encourage such investors to come to St Lucia and use a resort like this as this a home. Q. W hat are the opportunities for the local workforce? A. The challenge it presents us, however, is really in preparing our people to respond. As you improve the quality of the product you must improve the quality of the workforce. The Government has recognised this and agreed to invest a substantial amount in training our people by engineering in them the right attitudes and right culture so they can respond to such development. Q. Are there sufficient local resources available (such as water) to meet this rapid development in tourism? A. For many years we have recognised the potential of the country. Well over 12 years ago we established a major dam which stores some 700 million gallons of water. We have just completed a major redistribution of the water supply. So in terms of distribution of the water resources in the north of the island, this resort is adequately supplied. The road networks are kept up to standard with investment in maintenance. The electricity supply is up to standard, and we are now discussing with the local power company ways and means of not only generating more electricity, but generating cheaper and more efficient electricity so we can sustain the levels of the essential services of St Lucia.