If you find an island or destination in the travel or lifestyle press such as “New St Barts” Bluntly, it is difficult for you to read and understand it in a while. Because St Barts is luxurious island in the middle of the Caribbean with a sophisticated cultured, a gourmet’s delight, some of the best hotels, high end restaurants and most fashionable clubs in the Americas between twenty one pristine beaches surrounded by the cleanest seas. The following information will help you know more.


In brief, St Barts is a haven for the connoisseur, seriously looking for the best things in life. There are no fast food chains, no high rises, no casinos, no strip clubs, no all-inclusive resorts and while cruise ships do visit, they are kept at a discrete distance.


So how would one go about creating a “New St Barts”? On the one hand recreating the geographical and historical circumstances that gave rise to St Barts would be a tricky task.


For those of you who don’t know the island, a brief outline: 8 square miles of island about 17 degrees north of the equator, colonized by French pioneers in the 17th century displacing the Arawaks, the indigenous Amerindian population.


There is no natural source of fresh water on St Barts, therefore no effective agriculture, and while the island was indeed a slave trading port back days and there were slaves in those dark, there were no sizeable slave based industries, such as sugar or tobacco. The attempts at agriculture that were tried were doubly foiled by hurricanes and drought.


As such, what you end up with is not the typical Caribbean notion of plantations and manor houses with the population split according to their race. Instead you have a predominately French people farming as best they can in the countryside, with the English speaking Afro-Caribbean population concentrated in Gustavia, the capital city. That there was fishing goes without saying, and even an amount of piracy, Gustavia being a free port and a convenient place to sell your booty.


St Barts became Sweden’s only colony between 1784 and 1878 and this has left its mark on the architecture and street names in Gustavia as well as continuing cultural links. Because of the link with Sweden, St Barts remains a free port to this day.


From pretty much that time until the 1950s St Barts was pretty much forgotten about. Becoming officially fully part of the French Republic in 1946, the island was dependent on Guadeloupe and passed unnoticed until the arrival of the Rockefellers and Rothschilds in the 1950s and became a famed and inaccessible retreat for American high society. This is not a typical history for a Caribbean island.


Since then the island has purposefully courted the upper end of the tourism market, the reasoning being pure logic: the island is tiny.


The bulk of the island remains in the hands of the descendants of the French settlers, simply known as Saint-Barths. At a rough estimate the Saint-Barths make up around half of the population, the other half being mainly metropolitan French with a sprinkling of other Europeans and surprisingly few year round American residents.


The Saint-Barths are conservative in nature, wary of hasty changes and the small size of the community makes it almost impossible for a charlatan to make a fast buck and disappear. If you want to do business on St Barts, people have to know who you are and trust you. You live on your reputation.


St Barts has evolved slowly, in a considered manner to where it is today. No amount of planning or project managing is going to recreate that overnight. Another factor to consider when imagining your New St Barts is that you would have to make it difficult to get to, which is hardly standard practice in designing a vacation destination.


The airport runway is only 2000 feet long, and the largest plane that can land has 19 seats.


You can fly in directly from San Juan however the majority of visitors come in through Sint Maarten, the closest nearby island with an airport that can handle jets, private or otherwise, then a transfer and a ten minute hop in small twin engine plane over to St Barts and the famous roller coaster landing.


To add another factor, the airport closes at sunset. Inconvenient perhaps, but this means no night flights and thus no airplane noise to disturb your evening. Ferries are an option, but not overly frequent or pleasant, and then there are the charter speedboats, which are elegant and luxurious, but pricy for a 40 minute ride for your average traveler.


St Barts is French. Not just French in culture and language, but fully part of the French Republic and, for the moment, fully part of the European Union. There are almost no restrictions for EU citizens coming to work on St Barts (there are exceptions, but not many).


This gives St Barts opportunities for recruitment that is rare in the Caribbean, pretty much the whole of Europe as a recruitment pool: from Portuguese stone masons, to German engineers, to Italian sylists, to English hoteliers, to Swedish masseurs, to French chefs, this list goes on.


Purely because of its openness to “foreign” workers Saint Barthelemy has the pick of a pretty good crop. In terms of security St Barts is possibly one of the safest places in the world, and this is also easily explained; The community is small, 8000 people on 8 square miles.


If someone tries to launch a criminal career, they are quickly and easily identified and, how shall we say, ejected. There is also the lack of poverty. Bluntly speaking, if you don’t have a job, no one will rent you accommodation, and you are off the island.


As you can see, recreating St Barts would be tough job, and a job that would be made tougher by the fact that St Barts is evolving. This subject is treated with mixed emotions. On the one hand the old world charm of a rustic island is fading, on the other hand the island has to survive in an ever more competitive world.


The way to do that is to do what St Barts does best, by improving quality and not following the crowd. You can fly direct to San Juan, or further, in a state of the art Pilatus Turboprop.


The days of the Mini-Moke have gone. There are now BMW convertibles, Mercedes and Porsches available to rent. No longer dependant on Guadeloupe, St Barts now controls its own budgets and there is a frenzy of widening and repaving the roads and rebuilding dry stone walls.


When people first started visiting St Barts the aircraft would make two passes over the grass runway. The first pass was to clear the goats, the second to land. There were no airport buildings to speak of.


Now the, albeit tiny, airport meets all modern standards and even has, to the dismay of many, security and baggage checks on departure. The Port of Gustavia has been completely remodeled and a new Harbor Master’s office built. In addition to the classic sailing yacht regatta, The Saint Barth Bucket, St Barts now organizes it’s very own open to all comers regatta, Les Voiles de Saint Barth, which is making a mark on the yachting calendar.


The villas, which make up most of the rental accommodation on the island, are being refurbished, rebuilt and renewed. You no longer have the impression that you have stepped into someone else’s home, but that this home was made for you.


Where there was one concierge company on St Barts six years ago, there are now seven. When a restaurant closes a more innovative one springs up in its place. It may not be your old favorite, but the spirit of excellence moves on. So while being the “New St Barts” would be a tough act to copy, keeping up would be even harder.


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