With one of the world's highest per capita income levels, Bermuda has no reason to hide its affluence.
When colonists first came to Bermuda, cotton and tobacco were the earliest crops grown on the island. However, the settlers quickly switched to sugarcane production as a main means of income. This precipitated the importation of many slaves and became the island economy's mainstay for quite some time. Unfortunately, the lack of fertile land has made it nearly impossible to create substantial income from agriculture, and today 80 percent of food is imported to the island.
As with most islands, the major turning point in Bermuda's economy was the switch from an agricultural economy to one based in the tourist trade. Bermuda now offers a wide range of tourist-friendly options year round and benefits from its proximity to the U.S. mainland. Over 360 thousand visitors travel to the island each year to relax in resorts, relax at the beaches, and tour the sites. Many thousands of vacationers arrive from the United States. Not surprisingly, tourism is one of Bermuda's largest industries (28 percent of Bermuda's Gross Domestic Product can be attributed to the tourism industry).
Bermuda has also turned its eyes toward international business and insurance. This is the islands' top trade, surpassing even tourism with 60 percent of the country's economic output attributed to international commerce. Over 12,500 companies on Bermuda are foreign. Many believe that nervousness about the effects of independence on this trade stopped Bermuda's people from vying for their own sovereignty. In 1995, Bermuda voted against independence, a decision that can be linked to the fear that independence will affect foreign business dealings. Even without independence, Bermuda's residents are far from cramped by their political status.
Bermuda's economy has not always been strong. In fact, the island suffered during the depression of the 1930s much as the United States and many other countries around the world did. Later, social unrest spurred by segregation caused further changes in the economy of the island. The country's involvement in international business and its tourism-based economy were both negatively affected by the events of September 11, 2001, but the country is making gains in the right direction.
Nonetheless, Bermuda's stable history has allowed it to cultivate one of the most profitable communities in the world. From sugarcane to international business, the economy of the island has grown and changed with the times, while much of the islands' culture has remained the same.
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