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Before a single villa is even constructed, foreign buyers have already shelled out close to $100 million snapping up more than half the luxury villas at the Buccament Tourism Development Project.

Robin Barrasford, Managing Director of Overseas Dreams, the marketing agent, said that these villas and cabanas at prices raging from $750,000 for a studio apartment to $1.5 million for a two-bedroom house are a steal. They are a quarter of the price of similar upscale real estate in St Lucia and significantly cheaper than Barbados.{{more}}

When the Argyle International Airport opens in 2011, he told The Daily Mail newspaper of Britain, the prices will likely skyrocket.

The 26-acre project by Mam Investments Limited fringed by a 500-metre strip of exotic black sandy beach will feature 160 luxury villas and cabanas, conference facilities, casino, and restaurants.

At present 125 construction workers are employed. On completion it is expected to employ 400 permanent staff and 300 seasonal.

The project is vigorously being marketed in Britain and Europe in the major newspapers as well as on the programme “The Next Big Thing Caribbean – Part 1” on Sky Television and Real Estate Television. The show features St Vincent and Barbados and compares the two islands and the differences in their property markets.

Tourism Minister Glen Beache gleamed with excitement on the developments of the project and said that 50 villas should be ready by Cricket World Cup 2007.

“This would be a major boost for St Vincent and the Grenadines. It is really the first major … resort development that we are getting (on mainland),” the Tourism Minister told reporters earlier this week.

With this major development in the bag, the minister is now looking at attracting more investors for other projects such as a brand name hotels.

“If we have Buccament and we get a brand hotel at Mount Wynne I think we would be quite fine… I do believe that mass tourism would come to St Vincent and the Grenadines, but one of the things we would have to look at is if we really want mass Tourism”.

Barrasford, quoted in The Daily Mail said that “tourism is in its early days in St Vincent and the Grenadines and the likelihood that the resort will be quiet for the first few years will be a hurdle for investors.”

According to the investment consultant, a 10 per cent return on investment, once the property remains empty, would be the lucrative offer for buyers who could then rent those cabanas at $1,300 a night.

One buyer from Southampton, England, Mark Smith said the purchase of a one bedroom cabana for $750, 000 was the first step towards making the Caribbean his permanent home.

“I’ve looked in The Bahamas, British Virgin Islands and on other Caribbean islands including St Lucia and Antigua. Most of those places were built up, didn’t allow locals on the beaches or didn’t feel safe. St Vincent has great potential. You can’t buy anywhere else in the Caribbean for this kind of money,” the 39-year-old Englishman told The Daily Mail.

While bargain prices seem to be the attraction to the Buccament development project, a tax exemption for the next 20 years is likely to be another appeal, luring these buyers to the scenic Buccament Bay. After a 30 per cent deposit on the luxury villas, owners would not have to worry about government tax charges for another two decades when they come to these shores to settle.

The development of the Buccament lands has sparked some fury from disgruntled farmers who are opposing the relocation of their farms to make way for the project’s construction.