INSEE estimated that the total GDP of Saint Barthélemy amounted to 179 million euros in 1999 (US$191 million at 1999 exchanges rates; US$255 million at Oct. 2007 exchange rates). In that same year the GDP per capita of Saint Barthélemy was 26,000 euros (US$27,700 at 1999 exchanges rates; US$37,000 at Oct. 2007 exchange rates), which was 10% higher than the average GDP per capita of metropolitan France in 1999. Tourism explains in a large measure the very high standard of living on the island.
St. Barth has long been considered a playground of the rich and famous and is known for its beautiful pristine beaches, gourmet dining in chic bistros and high-end designer shopping.
St. Barth has about 25 hotels, most of them with 15 rooms or fewer, and the largest, the Guanahani has just 70 rooms. Hotels are classified in the traditional French manner 3 Star, 4 Star and 4 Star Luxe.
Villa vacations are extremely popular and there are hundreds of villas terraced into the hillsides throughout the island as well has many beachfront locations. Villas here can range from one-bedroom bunglalows to large luxurious homes.
This island is also home to the rare scorpion Centruroides barbudensis, characterized by an overly large tail.
The oldest settlement still remaining is the village of Lorient (or L'Orient), although scattered in every cemetery on the island can be found Swedish grave markers. Lorient's sister village on the French mainland is the city of Lorient on the southern coast of Brittany. A list of settlements is
St. Barths has a tidal difference of only 8–15 cm. The beaches vary according to ocean currents — the weather travels onto the island following the sun from the East. One of the main surfing beaches (Toiny) is known for its riptide, while Grand Fond is one of the island's only non-swimming beaches. Although tourism doesn't allude to it, there are a small variety of warm water sharks in the Caribbean. So, swimming at dusk and dawn or in murky waters is not recommended. Otherwise, scuba and snorkling are a great way to see the nurse sharks, lobsters, conch and green sea turtles that abound in the waters surrounding St. Barth.
The beach of Grand Cul-de-Sac is the easiest beach in the Caribbean for learning sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing as it has a reef which closes off the entire bay. The current that passes outside the reef here also carries the migrating whales and dolphins.
Many of the full time residents are French citizens who work at the various establishments on the island. French is the primary language spoken, the natives' languages (patois and creole) are still surviving, but many residents also speak English, particularly at hotels and restaurants. The French Patois is spoken in the leeward portion of the island and is closely related to Quebec French whereas a French Creole related to Antillean Creole is spoken in the windward portion. Both varieties of language are spoken exclusively by a white population of European descent.
|Official figures from French and Swedish censuses.|
Saint Barth has a small airport known as Gustaf III Airport that is served by small regional commercial aircraft and charters. Most visiting aircraft carry fewer than twenty passengers, such as the Twin Otter, a common sight around Saint Barth and throughout the northern West Indies. The short airstrip is at the base of a gentle slope ending directly on the beach at St Jean. The arrival descent is over the hilltop traffic circle and departing planes fly right over the heads of sunbathers on St. Jean Beach (although small signs advise sunbathers not to lie directly at the end of the runway). Due to the close proximity of arriving and departing planes, either location is ideal for viewing by aircraft enthusiasts.
The nearest commercial jet airport is on the neighboring island of Sint Maarten. The current mayor's airline, called St Barth Commuter, offers non-prohibitive cost one-way/round trip travel between St. Barth and both of St. Martin's airports: Princess Juliana International Airport and the smaller L'Espérance Airport . WinAir also services SBH, usually originating in St. Martin (SXM). There are also charters to St. Barth from San Juan, Puerto Rico, available through Tradewind Aviation.
Ferries to and from Sint Maarten are the only other real option (although the passage from St. Martin to St. Barth is often rough), unless one is arriving by private charter boats/yachts.
The tropical location and natural beauty of St. Bart's makes it a prime location for modeling photoshoots, particulary for swimwear publications such as the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, which featured the island in its 1991 edition. St. Bart's was also the location of Brande Roderick's 2001 Playmate of the Year pictorial for Playboy.