The Economy of Guadeloupe

Tourism and banana farming are major breadwinners for Guadeloupe's economy

Guadeloupe's Economy

In recent years, tourism has driven the economic growth of Guadeloupe and has created the most revenue for the region. In the past, Guadeloupe has relied on its agricultural industry. Following in the footsteps of the majority of islands in the Caribbean region, Guadeloupe has become a beautiful vacation spot for tourists from all over the world.

Looking Back

Spanish explorers paid little to no attention to the island of Guadeloupe during their exploration of the Caribbean region because it seemed too hostile for colonization. The first settlers on Guadeloupe were French farmers who came to the island from the Normandie, the Bretagne, or the Charente areas of France. When Guadeloupe was colonized by the French, farming on the island wasn't very profitable until it was sold to Charles Houël who helped the growth of Guadeloupe's economy by cultivating crops of sugarcane, cocoa, and coffee. When Houël introduced these economic staples to Guadeloupe, he created opportunities for profit between the island and the French government.

African slaves were brought to Guadeloupe to work on the island's farms, but slavery received heavy opposition. After black slaves were permanently emancipated, the plantation owners on Guadeloupe faced terrible economic hardships because they had to start paying wages to their workers. Workers from China and India came in to replace the freed African slaves. The Asian workers were called Coolies, and having to pay these workers for their efforts helped to cause the economic downfall of many planters on Guadeloupe. Several planting estates were bought out by foreign companies in the late 19th century.

The harsh economic conditions on Guadeloupe caused much social unrest among the island's people, and several revolts and strikes by workers occurred during this period of economic depression. In response to Guadeloupe's stagnating economic situation, island officials began to diversify the economy so the region wouldn't be forced to rely solely on growing sugarcane to survive in the marketplace. Sugarcane, in fact, became an increasing drain because of high labor costs. After the second World War, farmers on the island began producing crops such as pineapples, bananas, and rice to subsidize the economy. Today, bananas and sugar are still Guadeloupe's main exported products.

Moving Forward

Guadeloupe formally relied on the growth and exportation of sugarcane, but when the sugar market became less profitable, the French island was forced to concentrate its efforts on other cash crops such as bananas, which bring in approximately 50 percent of the island's export earnings. Other moneymakers in the agricultural industry include crops such as eggplants, flowers, vanilla beans, coffee, and cacao, which is grown along the island's coast. Rum production and exportation is also part of Guadeloupe's agricultural economy. Many of the region's self-sufficient residents grow their own small crops for their families.

As a territory of France, Guadeloupe receives many large subsidies and imports from its mother country that contribute to the island's economy. Guadeloupe also receives many food imports, mainly from France, but from other countries as well. Now, tourism is the main economic industry on Guadeloupe followed by the agriculture and service industries.

Most tourists who visit the island come from the United States, but travelers come from all over to lounge on Guadeloupe's beautiful beaches and experience all that the French island has to offer. The number of cruise ships that dock on the island's port of call has been increasing in recent years, making cruise ship tourism a growing market on Guadeloupe.


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