There’s much to love about St Kitts, a small speck in the Leeward Caribbean strung between Antigua and St Maarten: turquoise waters, an underdeveloped coastline on both Atlantic and Caribbean seas, a lifestyle as laid-back as a chilled rum punch and interesting economic incentives. There are now also direct flights from London. BA's new Gatwick-St Kitts service is so popular a second weekly flight is planned from March next year.
That's good news for British property owners and holidaymakers on the 68-square-mile volcanic island. Of the 106,000 visitors to St Kitts and its sister island, Nevis, last year, only 10 per cent came from Britain, a number St Kitts tourism and culture minister Ricky Skerritt says is sure to rise.
"St Kitts only started to concentrate on tourism in 2004," says Skerritt. "We still only have two four-or five-star hotels. Change is coming but we're going slowly, concentrating on highend product."
OFFSHORE TAX HAVEN
The end of over 300 years of sugar production in 2005 was the impetus for change. Small-scale developments sprang up, aiming to capitalise on a 1984 law giving citizenship to foreigners spending more than £213,600 on approved schemes.
St Kitts is an offshore financial centre with no personal income, wealth or inheritance tax.
Half of the British buyers at Ocean's Edge, a development of 178 one-to three-bedroom apartments and 32 villa plots overlooking Frigate Bay close to the capital, Basseterre, bought there for the financial advantages of citizenship, says Pauline Bonanni of Select Resorts. Prices start from £219,000.
SPECTACULAR ST KITTS
St Kitts' south-east peninsula, 15 minutes from the airport, is the site for one of the most ambitious projects in the Caribbean.
Christophe Harbour is a 2,500-acre development by US company Kiawah Development Partners which, over the next decade, aims to create a golf course and up to 1,400 properties between six sweeping beaches.
The first property for sale is at Sandy Bank Bay, where plots cost from £305,100 for a third-acre, with total land and building costs from £732,000. Fifty of the initial 90 plots are sold. Fourteen one-bedroom beach bungalows, of 650sqft, are £518,700.
Kiawah has a 25-year track record in the quality resorts of Kiawah Island in South Carolina and Doonbeg in Ireland. Yet despite its investment — more than £61million to date — how can it persuade homeowners to buy into an off-plan development in the current climate? Christophe Harbour will be low-density, helped by the sloping site and low-level build, and Kiawah intends to leave a third of the land untouched.
Nevis, 20 minutes south of St Kitts, is even quieter and smaller, with a reputation for upmarket property and a small but loyal British following. This is where Admiral Nelson married long-suffering Fanny Nisbet in 1784 and where Princess Diana brought her sons in the Nineties to holiday far from prying eyes.
Local developer Deon Daniel has two projects for sale at prices significantly below other Caribbean islands. On Pinneys Beach, Nelson Spring offers two-and three-bedroom town houses in landscaped grounds with tennis courts, pool, gym and restaurant from £430,200 including furniture and fittings.
Nineteen of the 24 Phase One properties have sold, mostly to British buyers. A further 96 are planned on two large, nearby beachfront sites, with one-bedroom homes from £213,600. Ten minutes inland at Ferns Hill Estate on the slopes of Mount Nevis, Daniel has half-and one-acre plots from £91,500 with plans to build houses of between 1,800 and 3,500sqft for £396,700 to £488,200. Fifty are complete, well-spaced and landscaped so that the development feels like peaceful village.
Christophe Harbour: www.christopheharbour.com; www.aylesford.com; 020 7351 2383
Savills Select Resorts: www.selectresorts. co.uk; 01202 765011. For details on Nevis development, www.savills.co.uk/abroad; 020 7016 3740.
The Federation of St Kitts and Nevis is part of the Commonwealth.
Foreigners need an Alien Land Holding Licence. This costs 10 per cent of purchase price but property in the Citizenship by Investment Programme — including all above — is exempt.
Annual maintenance charges at Christophe Harbour will average £6,100.