Every May St Lucia moves to the beat of the jazz festival
Official festival site

Each year in the capital, Castries, throngs of people jam the streets in colourful costumes
Official carnival site

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Anglo-French History

Battles to bananas...trenches to tourism

You'd never believe it to look at the island, but the history of St Lucia is a catalogue of bloody battles and crumbling empires...

© St Lucia Tourism Board

The history of the 238 square mile island of volcanic origin is one of concentrated battles between enemies of old - the French and the British. With a head-spinning score of seven times British and seven times French, it is no small wonder this independent country is such a melting pot of peoples and cultural traditions. This milieu is evident in some of the names you will find attached to places you will undoubtedly visit during your stay here - Anse-la-Raye - where families gather for Seafood Fridays, Soufriere - the seat of the world famous Pitons, Castries - the city center with the main square named after the islandís Nobel laureate, Derek Walcott and Rodney Bay - named after English Admiral Rodney, whose fort was strategically perched atop the peak of Pigeon Island located in the north of the island - the ruins are still there to enjoy, canons and all.

Before St Lucia gained its independence from the British in 1979, the island's economy depended heavily on agriculture - a natural progression from the old days of slavery and the plantation owner-driven financial system. Sugar-cane plantations gave way to more profitable banana plantations and the period of 'green gold' began in earnest.

The success of agriculture began to wane with the establishment of large global trading blocs and new rules set out by the World Trade Organization. The business of bananas began to suffer from increased competition from much larger producers and more expensive inputs.

Tourism...another pillar
However, along-side the boom in agriculture, the island's leaders recognized the potential of the St. Lucia's innate natural wonders and their ability to captivate and lure visitors. The need to transform this into another economic mainstay became even greater, as the island developed its physical infrastructure. This in turn attracted the attention of international investors, among them hoteliers who sought out unspoilt beaches or coastal hill-top vistas to build the properties that would form the foundation of St Lucia's tourist accommodation.

Today St Lucia's tourism product is as diverse as the island's species of flora and fauna. Visitors no longer just stay in a hotel but truly experience St Lucia.. Destination Management Companies offer a myriad of tours and excursions designed to serve up a slice of this island paradise to suit every taste and budget.

Over 800,000 people visited St Lucia in 2004, with cruise passengers contributing to a large percentage of that figure. As the islandís main engine of economic growth, the sector lends 13.6% to GDP.

© St Lucia Tourist Board