Anguilla: A Tourism Based Economy

Quintessence Hotel in Anguilla. Photo by Merla Smith


Anguilla is an island in the Eastern Caribbean and has been a British colony since 1650.

In 2010 Honourable Mr. Haydn Hughes became Parliamentary Secretary, responsible for tourism and sports in Anguilla and was a Nominated Member of the House of Assembly of Anguilla. Hughes was also a leading figure in the Anguilla Independence Movement, AIM, for a number of years.

“Anguilla has had a sharp but very rich history,” Hughes said.

Hughes says that Anguilla’s first inhabitants were the Arawak people and to this day Anguilla is still home to a number of sacred sites of the Arawak people.

“The Spaniards arrived in Anguilla in the 1400s,” Hughes said. “The Spaniards and later the British brought slaves from Africa, from West Africa, to Anguilla. And because the soil was very poor and the rainfall very slight, the slave owners abandoned Anguilla and the people who were left divided the properties and lands amongst themselves. And Anguilla is in a unique position where 90% of the land is owned by the people of Anguilla. It is perhaps the only Caribbean island with such as history.”

In 1967, Anguilla revolted against English rule. In 1969, there was a referendum where the people of Anguilla voted to become the Republic of Anguilla. However, British forces invaded and the island was again under English rule. In 1976 a constitution was created which has lasted until present time. However, within that 41-year period, there have been seven constituencies and two constitutional changes.

If you would like to hear a more in-depth explanation of the history of Anguilla as explained by the Honourable Mr. Haydn Hughes, click on the audio player below.

Audio of Honourable Mr. Haydn Hughes discussing the history of Anguilla.


One of the major differences between a small country or territory, such as Anguilla, and a larger country, such as the United States, is the way in which the economies work.

Anguilla has a tourism based economy. According to the CIA World Factbook:

“Increased activity in the tourism industry has spurred the growth of the construction sector contributing to economic growth… In the medium term, prospects for the economy will depend largely on the tourism sector and, therefore, on revived income growth in the industrialized nations as well as on favorable weather conditions.”

And when looking at the GDP – composition, by sector of origin in the World Factbook, agriculture makes up 2.3%, industry 21% but services make up 76.6%, as of 2016.

The increase of tourism, leading to growth in the construction sector, can be see though the new resort construction on the island. An article written by Forbes details the various large construction changes and development that is beginning to take place.

Merla Smith, an Anguillan who knows the structure of the tourism economy well, is the current general manager of a new boutique Anguillan hotel, Quintessence, set to open in 2017.

Smith says she feels there are both positives and negatives to having a tourism based economy.

“Because of the tourism industry, we have been able to send our kids to better schools, have a better educational system and better hospitals and healthcare,” said Smith.

However, she acknowledges that Anguilla’s unique economy has its downfalls as well.

“The cost of living has gone up tremendously,” Smith said. “So people not working in the tourism industry have really felt the effects of this. Individuals working in the public sector, who do not make a lot of money during peak tourism season, struggle much more during periods of low tourism than those in the tourism industry do.”



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