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Mention Guernsey to most who've never been here and they'll conjure up images of old-fashioned seaside holidays, cream teas and quaint customs, probably involving cows and/or tomatoes. But this is a view of the island that is increasingly out of step with the modern reality. Guernsey is a bustling, cosmopolitan island, populated by a large number of young, worldly and increasingly wealthy professionals. Many of this new breed of islander have moved here from other jurisdictions; they've made a good living for themselves and now they want the good life to go with it.
And it's not just the stunning scenery and beach life that's bringing them to the island. "I didn't come here just for the views," says one self-made 48-year-old who moved to the island two years ago. "I came here because I can have a boat moored within spitting distance of my house, I can get to Europe any time I want to and when my friends come to visit there are some amazing restaurants and bars to entertain them in."
You don't have to look far to uncover evidence of the lifestyle accoutrements that make the island so attractive. The marinas in St Peter Port are filled with luxury cabin cruisers and yachts that wouldn't look out of place in Monaco or Miami. You can barely walk more than twenty paces without coming across another high quality eatery, where chefs from around the world draw on fresh, local produce to provide hungry diners with dishes that compare with the best of those found in any city. And the many independent boutiques that line St Peter Port's streets offer clothing and jewellery clearly designed to entice the most discerning of individuals. Livingroom even offer discreet services to high net worth individuals who wish to come to the island, but are shy of publicising the fact. And come they do, as the island's many multi-million pound farmhouses with performance car packed driveways, attest.
The gentler lifestyle too is proving a draw. In a world of frightening newspaper headlines that paint a picture of a United Kingdom that's spiralling out of control, Guernsey presents a stable, centred alternative. It's commonly described as being "like England of 40 years ago". But the reality is far more complex than that. Yes, the glue that used to hold UK society together still sticks fast here, so serious crime is rare, neighbours still look out for each other and children can wander the streets in relative safety. But with such a vibrant economy, there's none of the austerity that the descriptor implies. In fact, the economy has ensured that indulgence is the order of the day here. All the wealth being generated on the island has had a beneficial knock-on effect on its infrastructure. The schools are modern and well-equipped, the health service is excellent and there are extensive travel links to the UK and Europe, enabling business and leisure passengers easy access to major economic hubs, and Alpine pistes. No. There's nothing backward looking about life on the island.
Of course there are plenty of other reasons why Guernsey is increasingly being seen as the preferred choice. For a start, there's the friendly tax environment. With income tax charged at a flat rate of 20% and with generous allowances available to residents the burden is much less here than elsewhere. Then there's the fact that there is no capital gains tax, no capital transfer tax, no estate duty, no inheritance tax, no purchase tax, no turnover tax, no value added tax and no wealth tax. And for entrepreneurs who move here, they benefit from an environment where companies pay a 0% tax rate. Little wonder then that large corporations such as Specsavers, Healthspan, HMV's online arm and online gambling giants Virgin and Sporting Bet have made the island their home.
Much of what makes the island such a magnet for business is down to the government's commitment to nurturing a diverse, modern economy. The finance industry is still the mainstay here, but there is a distinct move towards attracting other sectors to the island. This is clearly evidenced by the raft of legislation has been passed in recent years that means that individuals and businesses are now able to exploit some of the most progressive commercial laws around.
The newly opened Guernsey Registry is at the heart of this. Recently enacted company laws have made it easier, cheaper and faster to register a company here than ever before. It's so fast, in fact, that the maximum time for incorporation is now just 24 hours and incorporations in two hours, and in specific cases within 15 minutes, are also possible. It's an aggressive policy that is clearly designed to make it as easy as possible for business to get done here.
And someone is clearly on the lookout for new areas into which the island can diversify. Witness the elevation of the Intellectual Property Office into its current role as a key player in the island's future. Here trademark owners and others can take advantage of a robust legislative framework that enables them to protect, mange and exploit their intellectual property assets in the Bailiwick and benefit from the economic advantages that brings.
Of such significance and depth are the changes in this area, that Intellectual Property administration in Guernsey is now widely considered to be one of the most modern in the world. Proposed developments in the future will include the re-registration of patents under an administrative process and the registration of image rights by individuals or entities - a service not yet available in any other jurisdiction.
There's little doubt that Guernsey is standing on the edge of something quite special. Even the beleaguered tourist industry is seeing an upsurge in fortunes. Cocktail bar conversations are peppered with references to rumoured five-star developments and forward-thinking hoteliers are investing heavily in upgrading properties. They know that the days of the traditional tourism of summers past are over, and are preparing instead for the arrival of moneyed city dwellers looking for a luxury escape.
And when they come here, if they like what they see, there's every chance that they'll come back for a second look. Then, as the island's many layers start to reveal themselves and the opportunities presented by living here become more apparent, their attitude will change. And like the many who've already chosen to settle here, they'll stop asking: "Why would I want to live in Guernsey?" and ask instead: "Why wouldn't I?"