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Travel Tips

Aired July 11, 2004 - 15:30:00   ET


RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR: It may be a breakfast meeting in London, then it's a lunchtime meeting in New York. It's onto a bit of banking in the Bahamas. You live in one country, you work in another, so on this month's CNN's BUSINESS TRAVELLER, we're living the international life.
Hello and welcome to CNN BUSINESS TRAVELLER. I'm Richard Quest, this month reporting from Nassau in the Bahamas, one of 700 little islands in the Caribbean Sea.

Now, what I'm going to describe to you will sound very familiar to many of you. You spend your life traveling so much that you're never really sure where to call home, and the Bahamas is a good example of this. People come here for a few months every year or simply just to conduct their business.

So on this program, managing your money when your business is based overseas; making the most of tax havens. Going to the United States on business? How the new immigration controls will affect you? And ON THE ROAD with Mohamed Al Fayed, the owner of Harrods, a man who leads an international life.

The Bahamas has always attracted people with money. Back in the 1920s, William Randolph Hearst, for example, came here and donated the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) which now sits atop of the Versailles Gardens. It's still a place that attracts people with money.

After all, it's a very nice place to visit your assets. Oh, and one other thing, the Bahamas is a tax haven. If you've got the money, you don't want to be paying it to the taxman.


QUEST (voice-over): From the laid back lifestyle of the Caribbean to the precision of the Swiss, if you've got some money to spare, than this is its natural home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Places like Monaco, the Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Virgin Islands, a number of Pacific islands are trying to get in on the act, the Salomon Islands and the like.

QUEST: These are all places where you can open an off-shore bank account and reap the benefits. Low income tax rates, in some cases, zero.

There are many benefits from banking offshore. You just need to be certain it's the right institution in the right place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has to be accessible, because invariably the businessman is going to want to visit his bankers, so I think location plays a part. I think you also want to make sure you're going into a location that has a political and economic track record and there are many good jurisdictions that can boast that.

Substantial financial institutions on the ground. I would be very hesitant and I would never recommend to a client that they end up going to a small bank that has no affiliation with a larger institution.

QUEST: The idea that offshore bank accounts will hid your money from prying eyes simply isn't true these days. Although the banks are keen to ensure privacy, they are far more regulated. That's because of high profile cases of tax evasion as well as a crackdown on questionable funds and money laundering.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The misnomer or the misperception is out there that banking countries, such as the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Jersey (ph), are black holes, and it's just not true.

You'd better be prepared for a high degree of vetting and disclosure as to who you are and what your source of income is and your source of funds are.

QUEST: Besides saving tax, if your home and work are divided between countries, having an offshore account may be just a matter of convenience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People who have busy international lifestyles, as we all know, putting time aside for your personal administration is a real challenge, and if you can find a proposition which makes it simple, you're going to use it.

QUEST: From the Caribbean to the Channel Islands, the options are endless. The issue is finding a home where your money will be mos comfortable.


Now, these travelers don't have to worry about things like window or aisle seats and nasty questions of tax havens. This is The Dip (ph) here at the Atlantis Resort, the largest in the Caribbean West Indies, and places like the Bahamas have become more popular since the United States tightened its immigration regulations.

After all, we're just two hours flying time from the Northeastern United States. And what international executives are finding is that they can meet in the Bahamas, thus avoid the tighter U.S. rules.


QUEST (voice-over): It's never been particularly pleasant, going through U.S. immigration, where long lines and tough questions are often the norm. It's become even tougher with new rules called the U.S. Visit program that are aimed at keeping the unwanted out.

For legitimate business travelers, the new procedures are often a hindrance to business.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As the United States has changed the regulation and tightened up on various aspects, then that has meant that businesses have begun to feel very much more pressurized as to what they're able to do in terms of their staffing and even business travel short trips are becoming increasingly difficult.

QUEST: British-American business represents some of the world's largest multinationals, like Citi Group and Merrill Lynch as well as smaller companies based in the United States or Britain.

In a recent survey, it found that nearly 90 percent of its members believed the new immigration policies would make business more difficult.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of our member companies has literally decided that they will no longer hold corporate meetings in the United States and that they will go offshore or they will take them to another part of their operation.

QUEST: Still, the United States is the largest business market in the world and chances are, you'll have to go there on business. Just make sure you're ready.

Many visitors will be coming from countries in the Visa Waiver Program where, for business or pleasure, you're allowed to stay for three months without a visa. European Union nations, Australia and Japan are all part of this program, but even if you come from one of these countries, if your passport is not machine readable, you will need a visa after October of this year.

Everyone else needs a visa, be if V1 (ph) or V2 (ph). With this, you can stay in the United States for up to six months, although there may be some exceptions and different rules apply to diplomats and journalists.

When you arrive in the United States, remember you will be asked about the purpose of your visit and your intended length of stay. You must also list a full address of where you'll be staying. And, finally, there's the screening.

(on camera): The most obvious difference of the procedures under the U.S. Visit program is the need to have your fingerprints and photographs taken. At the moment, this only applies to those visitors arriving with visas, but the plan is that all visitors arriving in the United States will eventually need to be fingerprinted and photographed.

(voice-over): A print of your left index finger followed by one from the right hand and then a digital photo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know that some passengers or travelers will be inconvenienced, but again, one of the good sources to get all the information is on the Internet. We have a Web site, WWW.CBP.GOV, and we'll provide all the information to the travelers.

QUEST: All of this only takes seconds, although there is no question that the entire immigration procedure under these new rules does take more time, and that also means more time in preparation, because here preparation is the key.


And we would like to have your thoughts on this question of the new difficulties of doing business in the United States. Have you been affected by the stricter immigration regulations? Have you found it more difficult to actually go about your business in America?

It's the usual e-mail address, Quest@CNN.COM. And better yet, you can find a host of interesting features on the world of business travel at the international edition of our Web site. It's at Edition.CNN.COM.

Coming up in just a moment, ON THE ROAD with Mohamed Al Fayed, the owner of Harrods, a man who leads an international life.


QUEST: And welcome back to BUSINESS TRAVELLER in the Bahamas.

It will have been a good year for profits when you can afford to spend $3,500 a night on this suite at the Ocean Club. But there are those people who have that short of money who can truly live the international life. Let's go ON THE ROAD with one of them.


QUEST (voice-over): London, Paris, Geneva. Mohamed Al Fayed is an Egyptian businessman worth hundreds of millions who is living an international life.

MOHAMED AL FAYED, HARRODS: Who told you that? It's just a type of simple life.

QUEST: Simple to some, but Mohamed Al Fayed owns Harrods Department Store in London as well as the Ritz Hotel in Paris. Al Fayed the delight of controversy, whether it be battling for British citizenship or his claims over the death of his son Dodi and the late Diana Princess of Wales. Then there are the matters of his finances.

Al Fayed is an example of someone who has chosen his home according to tax.

AL FAYED: It's not my choice. I've been forced into such a situation.

QUEST: Al Fayed believes he's been unfairly treated by the British tax authority when the Inland Revenue revoked his special tax status, so after nearly 40 years in Britain, he decided to base himself in Geneva.

AL FAYED: You think I would leave this country for tax? I pay hundreds of millions in taxes in the last 35 years. Every year. Last year I paid $125 million in tax on my business, on the people I employ. I employ 8,000 people in this country. Here is Harrods is only 5,000 people. And I contributed a lot of exported things.

QUEST (on camera): So it was because of these tax regime changes that would have cost you a great deal of money?

AL FAYED: I am one of I'd say 10,000 people who have tax arrangements that you don't pay your tax on your overseas business. They single me, only me, out of basically you can say 10,000 people who, most of them, don't contribute to the economy, to anything.

QUEST: I suspect that you are neither as rich as some people say nor as poor as some people say.

AL FAYED: Well, it doesn't affect me. You can take everything from me today and I'd (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and I'm healthy, I'm happy.

QUEST: Are you going to sell Harrods?

AL FAYED: Harrods is not for sale. Harrods is my pyramid. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we have been forced to leave because they cancelled my tax agreement, but it is my country. I am going nowhere.

QUEST: You've had so many struggles. Do you sometimes feel the struggles have been too much, whether it be the battle for Harrods, the battle for (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the battle for citizenship?

AL FAYED: The most important thing to me is health. Right? You wake up in the morning, you can breathe, you can walk, you can, you know, enjoy seeing, giving (UNINTELLIGIBLE). This adventure is something. You apply for it as a part of, you know, comfort.

I'm still proud to have my Egyptian nationality. It's above everything. The greatest civilization in the world.


QUEST: There really is nothing quite like a well-trained flock of pink Caribbean flamingos, the sort you'd see here at the Odestra (ph) Gardens her in the Bahamas. And don't you wish you could run your life in such a well-trained fashion; your business, your personal, your family, your friends, all working beautifully together. Of course, real life is anything like this.

So how do you balance the needs of family and friends with a life on the road without it all turning into a big bird noise?


QUEST (voice-over): Mark Hoskins (ph) and his family home is in Birmingham, in the middle of England. His job is 200 miles away, across the Irish Sea, as director of operations of Ingersoll-Rand in Ireland.

MARK HOSKINS (ph), INGERSOLL-RAND: I travel an awful lot. I'm away from Monday to either Thursday or Friday most weeks. Last week, for instance, I few to Dublin on a Monday. I flew to Brussels and back on the Wednesday and I flew back from Dublin to Birmingham on the Friday. And that wouldn't be an untypical week.

QUEST: Mark's been living this life for 2-1/2 years. What makes this possible is his wife, Pam.

HOSKINS (ph): A lot of the responsibility for the boys upbringing is on Pam, things like parents evenings and sports days, and I've missed an awful lot of birthdays and anniversaries, so that puts a lot more emphasis on her.

QUEST: Mark and Pam have worked out a balance in their lives. Not all couples are so successful.

Relationships counselor Paula Reardon (ph) specializes in looking at how families and individuals are affected by being constantly on the move.

PAULA REARDON (ph), COUNSELOR: The partner left behind is the one who has to handle the crises back home. And the partner that's living in multi-star luxury in hotel is cushioned actually from those crises. They are in a way left from the mundane, and I think it can be a bit polarizing in that sense to travel abroad.

QUEST: What is the secret of keeping a relationship going when one partner is constantly on the road? Communication. That's not just talking about what you've done each day, but keeping up with how emotions and value judgments have changed over time.

Independence; if one partner isn't traveling, they need their own group of friends and acquaintances.

There are also practical issues too, such as organization. Having one detailed diary for the whole house can help keep track of school plays and sport days as well as more mundane things as who pays the bills and gets the dog deflead.

Then there is focusing, being able to switch off from work and focus on your family.

HOSKINS (ph): We're better at always making the most of the time we have together, to make sure that we enjoy things and can do some of the activities that all of us as a family like to do.

QUEST: Quality time together helps make it just that little bit easier when Monday comes around and Mark has to get on that plane once again.


Get your relationships right and you too will be as proud as a peacock.

Coming up after the break, we're going to show you more beautiful things that you can do in the Bahamas if you have 2 HOURS TO KILL. That's ahead.



Now, if you're living the international life, then you'll be meeting new friends. This is Dot and this is Auntie Vi here at Dolphin Encounters.

Also, if you're living an international life, here in the Bahamas there's plenty to do if you've 2 HOURS TO KILL.


JACKSON BURNSIDE (ph), JUNKANOO: Hi. I'm Jackson Burnside. I'm an artist, I'm an architect, but most of all I'm a Junkanoo. This time of year, we celebrate the music and the food and the dance and the story- telling of the Bahamas.

We're going to take you down to something called Junkanoo in June, and when you get down there you're going to have a good time.

The music here is the music of the goat-skin drums mixed with the cow bells and the horns. I'm going to let you hear it, and when you hear it, you've got to dance.

The two major parades are Boxing Day and New Years Day. What you're seeing here is a taste of what the big parade is like. What you see is approximately 50 performers, musicians, dancers, et cetera, who make this parade happen. And each of them has their own unique costume on.

Here at the Popoff (ph) Studios, this is in Chippingham (ph), in a wonderful old historic building that has been transformed into an art gallery. This is where some of the younger contemporary artists are working. It has the soul and the feeling of the Bahamas in the use of materials, in the attitudes, the color.

I come here often because I like to see what the younger artists are doing.

The exhibitions change every three weeks or so. You're sure to find something new every month.

We're down to the Fish Fry. The Fish Fry goes all year round, 24/7, any night of the week you can come down here and you can get yourself a good meal and there's always some sweet music being played.

The Fish Fry has evolved from a fairly small group of fishermen who sold their wares and now it's grown into this wonderful mix of restaurants.

That's just a taste of the Bahamas. So we're telling you, come down. Come down to the Bahamas and enjoy this wonderful, rich culture that we have. You're sure to have a great time. Be looking to see you there.


QUEST: And with 2 HOURS TO KILL, that's CNN BUSINESS TRAVELLER for this month. I'm Richard Quest, over the Bahamas. Take me up.

Wherever your travels may take you, however you may be traveling, I hope it's profitable. I'll see you next month.

Do I get frequent flyer miles with this?



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