Saint Barthélemy, officially the Territorial collectivity of Saint-Barthélemy, called Ouanalao by the indigenous people, is an overseas collectivity of France in the West Indies. Often abbreviated to St-Barth in French, and St. Barths or St. Barts in English, the island lies about 22 miles southeast of St. Martin and north of St. Kitts. Puerto Rico is 150 miles to the west in the Greater Antilles. French is their primary language and they use Euros as their currency. The island is extremely small with next to nothing to do for tourist except diving, snorkeling and shopping, which is very expensive.
Saint Barts was for many years a French commune forming part of Guadeloupe, which is an overseas region and department of France. In 2003, the island voted in favor of secession from Guadeloupe in order to form a separate overseas collectivity (COM) of France. The collectivity is one of four territories among the Leeward Islands in the northeastern Caribbean that comprise the French West Indies, along with Saint Martin, Guadeloupe (120 miles), and Martinique. It is a volcanic island fully encircled by shallow reefs, has an area of 9.7 square miles and a population of 9,625. Its capital is Gustavia, which also contains the main harbor to the island. It is the only Caribbean island which was a Swedish colony for any significant length of time; Guadeloupe was under Swedish rule only briefly at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Symbolism from the Swedish national arms, the Three Crowns, still appears in the island's coat of arms. The language, cuisine, and culture, however, are distinctly French. The island is a popular tourist destination during the winter holiday season, especially for the rich and famous during the Christmas and New Year period.
On 19 March 1946, the people of the island became French citizens with full rights. Many men from St. Barts took jobs on Saint Thomas to support their families. The island received electricity circa 1961. Organized tourism and hotels began in earnest the 1960s and developed in the 1970s onwards particularly after the building of the island's landing strip which can accommodate mid-sized aircraft; capitalizing on its low population density, tropical peaks and sandy coastline with many coves. The coves and beach-side hotels attract catered and self-catered yachts and honeymooners.
The island sustained damage from Hurricane Irma in September 2017 but by March 2018, the airport was handling daily flights and the ferry between St. Martin and St. Barts was operating. Electricity and water had been restored; internet service and cell phone service were widely available. Some hotels were not yet open but most were expected to be operating soon.