St. Kitts (www.stkittstourism.kn) and neighboring island Nevis form one country – the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. With more than a quarter of the country set aside as National Park, UNESCO-protected colonial forts, an expansive, lush rainforest that is actually increasing in size and colorful beachside villages, it’s little wonder the island was coveted by the British and French who separately inhabited its 70 square miles over several centuries.
The island is located in the Eastern Caribbean and enjoys direct air access from Miami, New York, London, Toronto and other regional destinations. With a private jet terminal, private air charters to surrounding islands make shopping in St. Barths, diving in Saba and lunch in Anguilla a convenient excursion.
The rolling landscapes are spectacular shades of green, the surrounding waters are a tranquil turquoise and life on St. Kitts is described as sweet and simple. With its outdoor lifestyle and multitude of activities, year-round temperate climate, and the lowest unemployment rate in the Caribbean, St. Kitts is transforming from an agricultural-based economy to one focused on business development and tourism with an emphasis on historic preservation and sustainable development.
Integral to these dynamic aspirations is the development currently underway on the island, which includes two new world-class Championship Golf Courses, a 300-berth mega yacht marina, private beach clubs, exclusive hotels and resort communities, new international restaurants and other amenities, all guided by expert hands. St. Kitts is emerging on the world stage.
Since the 1640s, sugar was St. Kitts & Nevis’ primary export, however the government’s efforts to reduce the nation’s dependence on sugar have led to economic diversification. Today the economy is characterized by its dominant tourism, agriculture and light manufacturing industries. Foreign investment in tourism projects has soared 83% in recent years while tourism arrivals have increased almost 50% in the last decade. The Government is investing millions of dollars into preservation of the island’s ecology and world heritage sites as well as green energy and sustainable development. Though the economy is primarily driven by tourism, a sector that has witnessed incredible growth since the 1980s, export-oriented manufacturing and offshore banking are now playing larger roles, and the country has also developed a successful apparel assembly industry and one of the largest electronics assembly industries in the Caribbean. The national currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (XCD) managed by the Eastern Caribbean Bank, which is headquartered in St. Kitts, and is used in most of the English-speaking Caribbean islands. The XCD is pegged to the United States Dollar and has remained at the same rate of exchange since 1976 (USD 1 to XCD 2.68).
HISTORY and GOVERNMENT
Named by Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus in 1493, the country is a mix of cultures from the artistic legacy of the indigenous Amerindians to the colonial heritage of the French, British and Africans. During the late 17th and early 18th centuries, France and Spain separately inhabited the islands and battled for control until the British came to rule in the 18th century. Nevis was officially the most profitable colony per capita in the British Empire, however the islands attained independence in 1983 and became the Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis. Today, Kittitians and Nevisians form a small but proud nation with a stable democracy based on the British Parliamentary System where elections are held every 5 years and the Queen of England is the Head of State. The nation is an independent member state of the British Commonwealth. St. Kitts & Nevis is also a member of the United Nations (UN), the Organization of American States (OAS), Caricom (the community of Caribbean countries) and many other international organizations.
ENVIRONMENT and CLIMATE
A late-comer to the pursuit of tourism as a primary driver for the economy, St. Kitts & Nevis have taken firm steps to preserve and protect its marine environment, established a national forest reserve and implemented strict governmental requirements to ensure all new resort developments confirm to current eco-friendly and sustainable practices. St. Kitts is the larger of the two islands with a lush and picturesque central mountain range whose highest point is Mount Liamiuga at almost 4,000 ft, and is covered by a verdant, thriving rainforest. To help protect this precious natural asset, the St. Kitts & Nevis National Parliament has declared all land above the 1,000 ft contour to be a National Forest Reserve, effectively protecting most of the island’s lush rainforest. Classified as an American Oceanic Rainforest, it is one of the rarest types found on the planet. Those who choose to venture into the rainforest on one of many winding trails will be embraced by a canopy of rich green leaves sprinkled with brightly colored flowers and the soothing sounds of nature. St. Kitts & Nevis have quaint capitals, Basseterre and Charlestown, memorable for their pretty Victorian architecture and pastel colors. The average year-round temperature is 84°F / 28°C, with water at surrounding beaches a few degrees cooler.
The islands play host to many cultural and musical events year-round including the St. Kitts Music Festival featuring live performances by Grammy-award-winning artists and Caribbean musicians playing Reggae, Jazz, R & B, Calypso and more. Mid-December, the islands get a special burst of color and music for the annual St. Kitts & Nevis Carnival. Independence Day is celebrated on 19 September each year and is extremely popular with colorful parades, street dances, salsa, soca, jazz and steelpan music.
St. Kitts & Nevis is home to the world-class golf course: the Royal St. Kitts par 71, 6,900 yards Thomas McBroom-designed course at the Marriott Resort. Two new courses are currently under construction. A Tom Fazio-designed18-hole championship course on the stunning southeast peninsula with 360° Caribbean sea views is set to open in 2014 as well as an Ian Woosnam-designed 18-hole championship course set on 200 acres of dramatic hillside on the north side of St. Kitts. Cricket is one of the most popular sports in St. Kitts & Nevis. Warner Park Cricket Stadium hosted the Cricket World Cup matches in 2007. In addition, a state-of-the-art 198-acre horse racing track and entertainment centre ‘Beaumont Park’ was completed in 2011 and hosts thousands of patrons monthly for premium thoroughbred racing and family-friendly entertainment. Football and athletics are also extremely popular. St. Kitts is home to champion world sprinter Kim Collins. St. Kitts & Nevis have always played host to international sailors and now a 300-berth super yacht marina is under construction on the southeast peninsula.
Besides, the golf and other sports, and festivals and historical tours to be enjoyed, St. Kitts has an abundance of fun activities for visitors including zip-lining through the rainforest, shopping duty-free at the new Port Zante, sailing to Nevis, snorkeling and diving among protected reefs and shipwrecks, playing at the Marriott Royal Beach Casino, hiking and biking, deep-sea fishing, scenic train rides or simply relaxing at one of the islands’ popular beach bars.