Twin pillars of the BVI economy
First settled by the Dutch in 1648, the BVI (pop. 22,000) were annexed in 1672 by the English. The climate is subtropical and humid, but temperatures are moderated by trade winds. The coral islands are relatively flat; while volcanic islands are steep and hilly.
The BVI economy is one of the most prosperous in the Caribbean, with an average annual GDP growth of 9.5% from 2004 to 2007. The economy is highly dependent on financial services and tourism. Financial services account for almost 50% of national income while tourism generates around 45%.
It was the offshore industry which pushed the BVI forward. In mid-1980s, the BVI adopted legislation encouraging rapid expansion of international financial services. Now, the BVI is considered one of the leading offshore jurisdictions, with over 550,000 registered companies.
Tourism also plays a vital role in the economy. People visiting the British Virgin Islands increased an average of 10.4% per year from 2004 to 2008, whereas stay-over visitors to the islands increased an average of 4.6% per year over the same period. The total number of visitors to the islands was 917,683 in 2008, of which 345,934 stayed over.
Despite the BVI status as a politically stable British dependent territory and many British influences, the prevailing cultural influences are more American than British. BVI belongers have automatic UK citizenship. But this right is not reciprocal, and UK citizens wishing to become BVI belongers must endure the same delays and uncertainties as other outsiders.
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