I'm a big fan of the extended-stay, workcation programs. What's not to love?
These programs enable travelers to work remotely with their toes in the sand while tapping away on a laptop in an island destination for up to a year.
I've not actually done one of these programs, just listened enviously to stories from those who have, and I've watched the programs gain momentum as Covid stretched on and on.
Barbados started it all in the Covid 2020 summer with its Welcome Stamp program that provided remote workers with the opportunity to relocate to the island and live like a Bajan for up to a year.
Other destinations soon jumped on the bandwagon with similar programs, including Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominica, the Dominican Republic and Montserrat.
Hotels, too, joined in with programs that encouraged short- or medium-term workcations, including Playa Hotels & Resorts, the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort, the Beach Enclave Turks and Caicos and Silversands Grenada.
And even Princess Cruises has joined the fray, pitching an office at sea as a remote-work option.
A recent addition is St. Lucia, whose Live It program differs a bit from the others, according to Minister of Tourism Dominic Fedee.
"The Live It program launches at a time when interest in international travel is renewed in our key markets in the U.S., Canada and the UK," Fedee said. "We created this immersive program so visitors can live like a local, while feeling like a member of the family."
After filling out an online form, participants in the program are paired with a Live It Island Specialist (a local tour operator) who acts as a personal guide before and during the traveler's stay at Covid-certified hotels and private villas. The specialist handles VIP airport welcomes, develops daily and weekly itineraries and curates and customizes bespoke experiences for couples, solo travelers, families and friends traveling together.
Visitors who want to extend their Live It experience beyond six weeks can work with their Island Specialist to apply for an extension up to one year.
Sample customized programs include Culinary Exploration, where visitors learn island cooking traditions, take a two-day course in the art of mastering Creole stew and salt fish, sample local rums and chocolate, break bread with St. Lucians and dine at meals prepared by a private chef. Another program called Sistas Traveling Together features dance and fitness sessions, forest hikes, bar hopping to sample rums, a chocolate expedition and a shopping spree in Castries.
Covid-19 protocols for St. Lucia require visitors to quarantine for the first 14 days in an approved and certified accommodation. After that, Live It participants receive a bracelet that identifies them as long-stay visitors. Starting on Day 15, they are free to explore the island and follow the itineraries mapped out for them by their Island Specialist.
"In a shorter visit, travelers are limited to just a few activities but if they stay longer they get to roam locally, decompress from a year of lockdowns and work remotely," Fedee said.
Puerto Rico's version of the workcation phenom took root in recent studies showing that 74% of Americans who work from home said they'd consider taking a workcation.
Launched on April 22, the Deskover Puerto Rico program will award six two-week workcations to applicants who share what they would accomplish if they had two weeks working remotely on the island.
Travelers based in Puerto Rico during their workcation are free to explore the island.
"Puerto Rico is a great option for travelers looking to work remotely from unique accommodations, seeking warm temperatures, rich history, a plethora of outdoor attractions, delectable cuisine and an international flair," said Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico.
"We're committed to providing a safe travel experience, given the prioritization of health and safety measures," he added.
Unlike other destinations touting their compatibility for remote work, Puerto Rico requires no work visas, passports or insurance requirements for U.S. citizens. The island uses the U.S. dollar, has 31 internet providers and three 5G networks for videoconferencing.
A range of accommodations includes a floating villa (a yacht) off the northeast coast of Fajardo, a historic apartment in Old San Juan, a one-bedroom suite at Copamarina Beach Resort & Spa in Guanica on the southwest coast, a Regency suite at the Hyatt Grand Reserve in Rio Grande and a three-bedroom condo at the Palmas del Mar resort community on the southeastern coast.
Six winners will receive roundtrip economy air, accommodations for 14 nights and free WiFi.
Deadline for applications is May 13.