Like they say, money makes the world go ’round. And tourism keeps Caribbean commerce booming. But which of these beautiful tropical islands is the richest Caribbean country?
The richest Caribbean countries
It’s no secret that the tourism sector brings in the big bucks for small Caribbean islands. However, a country’s GDP can depend on a lot more than that. Also, GDP isn’t the only factor to take into consideration when ranking countries from richest to poorest.
Nevertheless, the richest Caribbean country does rely somewhat on the tourism industry to boost its economy. In fact, tourism is helping the richest Caribbean nation rebuild in the aftermath of the devastating 2017 hurricane season. Can you guess which country we’re talking about?
1. Puerto Rico: the richest Caribbean country in 2019
This may come as a surprise, considering all that this US Commonwealth has suffered since 2017. Hurricane Maria hit the island head on, causing power outages in 90% of the island. Thousands lost their lives, and even more lost their homes. As a result of the damage and loss of jobs, many Puerto Ricans migrated to the United States in 2017 and 2018.
However, Puerto Rico’s merchandise trade surplus is remarkably strong. The country exports nearly 50% greater than it imports, and its current account surplus about 10% of GDP. Its GDP (adjusted for purchasing power) is 40,796, according to the latest economic data. 46% of the GDP is derived from manufacture. Main products in manufacturing are pharmaceuticals, electronics, textiles and petrochemicals.
In addition, tourism is booming in Puerto Rico, and has helped the island recover from the damage done by the storms. Popular activities in Puerto Rico include trekking through the El Yunque jungle, basking on beaches, and kayaking through the bioluminescent bay.
2. Aruba: the second richest Caribbean country
With a 40,160 GDP adjusted for purchasing power, Aruba is the second richest Caribbean country. The tourism sector currently provides the largest percentage of Aruba’s income.
Over the past 80 years, tourism in Aruba has been growing steadily, as more people discover the nation nicknamed the “One Happy Island.”
3. The Bahamas: the third richest Caribbean country
With over 700 islands and cays, the Bahamas once took the top spot as the richest Caribbean country. That’s no surprise considering tourism is booming in this tropical paradise. However, it has currently slid down to number three on the list, as of 2019.
With a population of around 400,000 people, the Bahamas has one of the richest economies in the Caribbean as far as GDP. Its GDP per capita as of 2019 (adjusted for purchasing power) is 34,421. The tourism industry employs at least 50% of Bahamians. After the tourism sector, which accounts for 60% of the nation’s GDP, other top contributors are banking and agriculture.
The Bahamas attracts millions of tourists each year, and that number is steadily growing. 6.1 million tourists visited the islands in 2017, increasing to 6.6 million in 2018.
That’s great news for what many have called the “paradise islands”. “The Bahamas is a hot place to come to right now,” Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar said at a press conference in March 2019.
Despite setbacks like the infamous Fyre Festival aftermath in 2017, tourism in the Bahamas is booming. With hundreds of white-sand beaches and endless activities, the Bahamian islands truly make the perfect, family-friendly vacation destination.
4. Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago takes the fourth spot on our list of the richest Caribbean countries, thanks to its 32,684 GDP (adjusted for purchasing power). It was the wealthiest country in the Caribbean in 2015.
Although its economy is largely dependent on petroleum and petrochemicals, the tourism sector has been developing rapidly. It mainly receives tourists from the United States and Canada. The country is famous for its Carnival events, held right before Ash Wednesday each year.
5. St. Kitts and Nevis
The fifth richest Caribbean country in 2019, St. Kitts and Nevis, has a GDP of 31,095. Although it is the smallest sovereign state in the western hemisphere, it has a booming economy, dominated by tourism, manufacturing, and agriculture.
This dual-island nation is famous for beautiful mountains, dormant volcanoes, and exceptional beaches. It is one of the best places to hike in the Caribbean, with lush, green jungles and high, cloud-scraping mountains.
6. Antigua and Barbuda
This independent commonwealth country comes in 6th place with a GDP of 29,298 as of 2019. Tourism accounts for more than half of the GDP.
In addition, Antigua and Barbuda uses an economic citizenship program to entice foreigners to invest in the country.
With its secluded beaches and incredible mountain views, Antigua is one of the most underrated islands in the Caribbean. One of its most famous and most photographed lookout points its Shirley Heights.
7. Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic has long been a favorite for Caribbean tourism. In fact, it’s one of the most popular destinations for Spring Breakers from the United States!
As the second-largest country in the Caribbean, this Spanish-speaking nation has a GDP of 19,516, adjusted for purchasing power. Once dependent on agriculture, the country now relies on tourism and the service sector, which accounts for almost 60% of the GDP.
Sharing an island with Haiti, the Dominican Republic is also the most visited country in the Caribbean. Popular destinations include Punta Cana, a famous beach and resort hub, and Pico Duarte, the Caribbean’s tallest mountain. The country has also pushed to expand ecotourism in recent years, and has taken steps to become a more eco-conscious nation.
With 18,798 GDP per capita, Barbados takes eighth place among the richest Caribbean countries. Tourism and manufacturing are top contributors to the economy. In addition, Barbados has the largest stock exchange in the Caribbean.
In general, citizens on Barbados enjoy a high quality of living. It is currently the world’s 77th richest country.
Thousands of tourists flock to Barbados each year to enjoy the famous Crop Over festival, which takes place from May to August.
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