The Bahamas: hurricane-prone tourist paradise

Nassau (Bahamas) (AFP) –


The Bahamas, devastated by Hurricane Dorian, is an English-speaking archipelago located between Florida, Cuba and Haiti, which lives mainly from tourism and enjoys close relations with the United States.

Five things to know about the country of some 385,000 people:

- Land of migration -

An archipelago of 700 small islands, 39 of which are inhabited, the Bahamas are situated 80 kilometers (50 miles) to the southeast of Florida. Close to Jamaica, Cuba and Haiti they are regularly used as a transit point for migrants seeking to reach the United States.

According to the International Organization for Migration, around 5,000 Haitian migrants work legally in the Bahamas, but 20,000 to 50,000 of their compatriots are in the country illegally. 85 percent of the population is of African origin.

The archipelago's geographical position has also made it into a hub for drugs trafficking, against which the United States is closely working with the country's authorities.

- Tourist paradise, tax haven -

Tourism is the Bahamas' main source of income, with 80 percent of its four million visitors a year coming from the United States. The sector accounts for 60 percent of the more than $12 billion GDP and employs half of the people of working age.

The islands' main attraction is Atlantis Paradise Island, a vast tourism complex across from the capital Nassau.

The country was hard hit by the 2008 financial crisis. Growth has since resumed, but remains weak, standing at 1.4 percent in 2017.

Due to its low taxes, banking is the country's second biggest economic sector, accounting for a fifth of GDP.

Classed as a tax haven in 2000, the Bahamas was struck off the OECD's grey list of uncooperative tax havens in April 2010.

- Refuge for stars -

The archipelago is home to numerous celebrities, from Scottish actor Sean Connery, a longtime resident for tax reasons, to American Johnny Depp, who like several other stars owns a private island there.

Born to a Bahaman mother, New York musician Lenny Kravitz still considers the islands' home and holed up there to make his last album "Raise Vibration" (2018).

Sydney Poitier, the first black to receive a best actor Oscar in 1963, was born in the United States to Bahaman parents, but lived in the archipelago up to the age of 15, before returning to Miami.

An emblematic figure of Bahaman athletics, sprinter Pauline Davis Thompson won the world relay 4x100 championship in Seville in 1999, and two gold medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

- Two-party system -

Independent since 1973 and a member of the Commonwealth, the Bahamas has Britain's Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state.

The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) dominated the country's politics for the first two decades after independence, until the Free National Movement (FNM) won elections in 1992. Since then the two parties have alternated in governing the country. The FNM won the 2017 elections.

- Storms and hurricanes -

The Bahamas are regularly hit by hurricanes and tropical storms.

In 2004, nine people were killed during Tropical Storm Jeanne.

In 2016, during Hurricane Matthew, Bahamas' airports were closed and its inhabitants summoned by the authorities to move to high ground, for fear of flooding. Despite heavy damage, there were no victims.

In 1999, Hurricane Floyd, which was accompanied by more than 15-meter-high (49-foot-high) waves, flooded several islands, leaving one dead and major damage, which hit the economy hard. In 1992 four died during Hurricane Andrew.