Yuri Bender is the Editor-in-Chief of Professional Wealth Management – a publication from the Financial Times. He visited the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis to film a documentary and find out more about the country’s famous Citizenship by Investment (CBI) Programme. In the third chapter, he speaks with a Canadian businessman and philanthropist John Zulianni, who continues his family legacy on the twin islands.
“The Zuliani family has been a fixture of the real estate and hospitality industries in St Kitts and Nevis for the best part of four decades,” says Yuri Bender in his introduction. “The late Archie Zuliani came here from Toronto, Canada, in the early 1980s and began to develop and renovate coastal properties. Now, his son, John, is the islands’ best-known developer. We have come to the Royal St Kitts Hotel in Frigate Bay to ask Mr Zuliani his family has kept its faith in the tourism industry of these islands for so many years.”
John Zuliani: We have the ability to accommodate short-term hotel guests, as well as long-term guests. So there are some medical universities on [the] island, and medical tourism is growing in St Kitts.
Another thing we’re working on is trying to work with a healthcare group to open certain services that we can market, focused on the healthcare services that St Kitts could eventually start providing. So I see it all together and, in St Kitts, just focusing in one area can be very tough to survive. You know, five-star hotels are beautiful but they’re very expensive to operate.
Yuri Bender: And have you seen a significant, transformative effect from the funds coming into the Citizenship by Investment Programme?
John Zuliani: Basically, I’ve seen a shotgun effect since CBI kind of took off. You have a lot of developers, investors willing to invest because of their citizenship approvals, much sooner and at a much faster rate than somebody [who] would be investing without those approvals, because it gives you added value to your project. I’m a perfect example.
We build a beautiful shopping plaza at the front of our hotel. I’ve always wanted to build that, but because I got it approved for Citizenship by Investment, I went forward with it right-away. That shopping plaza alone equated [to] 100 people getting full-time employment from the seven small businesses opened in that plaza.
So when you talk about tangible effects of CBI approvals and a project approved for Citizenship by Investment – a large investment made equalled by employment in the hundreds – I mean that is a perfect definition of it helping stimulate the economy, and the people of St Kitts.
Yuri Bender: But CBI, John, is not without its controversies, and Canada has suspended visa-free travel for St Kitts and Nevis passport holders. As somebody who is attached to both countries – Canada and St Kitts and Nevis – do you feel that this will change in the future?
John Zuliani: I mean, I can say what I’ve seen in Parliament, with the Honourable Minister Mark Brantley as well as the Honourable Prime Minister Timothy Harris have both made extreme efforts to work with the Canadians to ensure that the Canadian government is satisfied and happy with everything that St Kitts is doing in order to try to get that visa-free access back.
At the same time, it is only an online application and you get 10 years visa entry once you get approved for your visa. Kittitians can still travel to Canada – just a little bit more paperwork to do before you go.
But there’s a lot of Canadians in St Kitts, when you look at the ownership of the Royal St Kitts Hotel, we’re Canadian as well. When you look at the ownership of Marriott across the street which my father did start but sold that, I believe they are Canadian as well.
Where can you travel visa-free with a passport from St Kitts and Nevis?
Yuri Bender: And you’ve talked about some of these major resorts here in Frigate Bay. What is your investment strategy now for the future in St Kitts?
John Zuliani: [In August 2019], we broke ground on 12 suites that will be Miami-style, right on one of our beautiful pools. This will allow us to start targeting that higher-end market. At the same time, in an affordable manner, by satisfying the space. You know, a three-bedroom villa is going to be 300 sq feet, private plunge pools – you name it. We’re going to have all the amenities there so our strategy is just to continue investing.
At the end of the day, St Kitts is booming. We have a second construction pier that was a 50-million-dollar project coming to completion. That’s going to increase cruise ship passenger [capacity to] over a million. We have got a few hotels that are at the finish point of being completed. So as soon as these things are done, especially when it comes to the hotels, now the government and all of us hoteliers can negotiate with airlines to increase our airlift and reduce airline costs.
Continue Investing in Your Family Legacy
St Kitts and Nevis prides itself on strong state institutions and highly ranked rule of law. As a young modern democracy, it is not afraid to adopt new approaches to doing business, living and attracting foreign investment. In fact, in 1984, it was St Kitts and Nevis who established the concept of “citizenship by investment” as we know it today.
Intuitive by nature, St Kits and Nevis gives investors the perfect environment to thrive in, under the fair protection of the law, all the while putting the interests of all Kittitians and Nevisians at the heart of everything.
At the moment, the fastest, most secure and most impactful CBI channel is the Sustainable Growth Fund. Besides being most convenient for families, it is also the most beneficial for the island residents, who can see the CBI DNA all over the islands, as Foreign Minister Mark Brantley said in the following chapter of the same documentary.
On July 3rd, 2020, the government announced that it has made its fund option requirements more family friendly. Instead of contributing US$195,000 to the government fund, St Kitts and Nevis has allowed families of up to four to obtain citizenship for US$150,000 – the same as for a single applicant.
The offer is said to expire on January 15, 2021.
Due to COVDI-19, citizenship applications for St Kitts and Nevis can be submitted online.
For more information, please contact one of our London experts.