St Helena’s window of opportunity to investors

Historic land and buildings up for grabs in tourism sector

Scenic Surrounds: St Helena offers spectacular views on hiking trails, such as this waterfall near Jamestown
Scenic Surrounds: St Helena offers spectacular views on hiking trails, such as this waterfall near Jamestown

KNOWN for its rugged natural beauty, rich biodiversity and fascinating history, the small south Atlantic island of St Helena is growing in its appeal as a travel destination with a difference – and now there are also opportunities for those keen to invest in its tourism.

From the time it was discovered in 1502 by the Portuguese admiral Joao da Nova on his return voyage from India, the island has been a haven for sea travellers because of its lush vegetation, pleasant climate and abundance of fruit trees.

It is very much an island of contrasts, from wind-eroded desert with multi-coloured ridges and valleys, to emerald hillsides, soft pastures and lush vegetation-filled valleys.

Adding to its appeal to visitors is its magnificent surrounding coastline with 1 000-feet high cliffs, carved out over aeons of the pounding Atlantic rollers.

An ancient volcanic island, St Helena is about 2 414km north-west of Cape Town and at this stage can only be reached by ship, though plans for an airport are well under way.

Opportunities for investment on the island were announced earlier this month by Governor Mark Capes and the chief executive for economic development, Enterprise St Helena, Dr Niall O’Keeffe, at a function hosted by British consul general Chris Trott in Cape Town.

“As the latest tourism destination to catch the eye of the international travel market, St Helena presents significant opportunity to early adopting investors with vision,” O’ Keeffe said.

Previously only accessible by sea, the St Helena airport project is the biggest single investment in one of its overseas territories ever made by the UK government.

It is anticipated that air services, provided by Comair, will start early next year.

St Helena has a strong British heritage as it is the second-oldest remaining British territory after Bermuda.

Jamestown, the capital, was founded when English colonists settled on the island in 1659. As such, the capital’s architecture and ambience are imbued with some 300 years of colonial histor y.

“The island is already renowned as a snorkelling, scuba diving and sport fishing destination and the cliffs and rocky shores provide exceptional trail hiking routes.

“St Helena is also of great historic interest – it was used as a place of exile for key prisoners, including some 6 000 Boers, Chief Dinizulu, and of course Napoleon,” O’Keeffe said.

O’ Keeffe outlined a range of opportunities including specific land and buildings available for various types of development.

Investors wishing to enter St Helena will need to apply for a long term entry permit which may be granted for any period over six months up to a maximum of five years.

Separately, investors may need to apply for a work permit and pass a points-based assessment. There are specialist investor provisions for those investing in excess of £50 000 (R965 000)

It is possible to purchase freehold or leasehold land in St Helena.

Immigration permission is only applied where a person’s cumulative landholding is more than 0.8ha. Final decisions on all business proposals will be made by executive council.

Among others, properties include a multi-layered fort at the top of Ladder Hill with commanding views over James Bay; barracks which can be used to create a world- class hotel with stunning views.

Then there is Bertrand’s Cottage across the road from Longwood House, the home of Napoleon between 1815 and 1821 and restored by the French government; Farm Lodge, the premier small hotel on St Helena; Devil’s Punchbowl, 16 to 42ha of green development land located between Jamestown and the airport; the wharf in Jamestown dates back to the 16th century.

A particularly exciting opportunity involves potential to regenerate the wharf and waterfront, and create opportunities for cafes, green space, special retail, dive schools, hotels, bars and restaurants and a hub for water sports.

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