Antigua and Barbuda is a twin-island country in the Americas, lying between the Caribbean Seaand the Atlantic Ocean. It consists of two major inhabited islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and a number of smaller islands (including Great Bird, Green, Guinea, Long, Maiden and York Islands and further south, the island of Redonda). The permanent population numbers about 81,800 (at the 2011 Census) and the capital and largest port and city is St. John's, on Antigua.
Separated by a few nautical miles, Antigua and Barbuda are in the middle of the Leeward Islands, part of the Lesser Antilles, roughly at 17°N of the equator. The country's name was given by Christopher Columbus in 1493 after discovering the island, in honor of the Virgin of La Antigua in the Seville Cathedral. The country is nicknamed "Land of 365 Beaches" due to the many beaches surrounding the islands. Its governance, language, and culture have all been strongly influenced by the British Empire, of which the country was formerly a part.
Antigua is perhaps the island which most typifies the modern day view of a small Caribbean destination. With few other natural resources, tourism dominates the local economy of both islands. Stunning white sand beaches abound, and on Antigua there is no shortage of attendant high-end resorts. Barbuda still has the beaches but little tourism-based infrastructure.
Investment banking and financial services also make up an important part of the economy with many major foreign banks taking advantage of the nation's liberal banking laws. That may all change though after the 2009 arrest of Antigua-based Texan billionaire Allen Stanford who is accused of perpetrating an enormous fraud which may have bilked investors of some US$8 billion.
Cricket is a huge sport here and this tiny nation has produced several genuine all-time world greats of the game. Cricket fans will certainly not be short of locals to chat with.
Antigua and Barbuda are nicknamed "Land of 365 beaches" due to the beaches that surround the two islands.
Antigua and Barbuda both are generally low-lying islands whose terrain has been influenced more by limestone formations than volcanic activity. The highest point on Antigua is Mount Obama(formerly Boggy Peak), the remnant of a volcanic crater rising 402 metres (1,319 feet).
The shorelines of both islands are greatly indented with beaches, lagoons, and natural harbours. The islands are rimmed by reefs and shoals. There are few streams as rainfall is slight. Both islands lack adequate amounts of fresh groundwater.
Rainfall averages 990 mm (39 in) per year, with the amount varying widely from season to season. In general the wettest period is between September and November. The islands generally experience low humidity and recurrent droughts. Hurricanes strike on an average of once a year. Temperatures average 27 °C (80.6 °F), with a range from 23 °C (73.4 °F) in the winter to 30 °C (86 °F) in the summer and autumn. The coolest period is between December and February. Its low humidity makes it one of the most temperate climates in the world.
Antigua has a population of 85,632, mostly made up of people of West African, British, and Madeirandescent. The ethnic distribution consists of 91% Black, 4.4% mixed race, 1.7% White, and 2.9% other (primarily East Indian and Asian). Most Whites are of Irish or British descent. Christian Levantine Arabs, and a small number of Asians and Sephardic Jews make up the remainder of the population.
An increasingly large percentage of the population lives abroad, most notably in the United Kingdom (Antiguan Britons), United States and Canada. A minority of Antiguan residents are immigrants from other countries, particularly from Dominica, Guyana and Jamaica, and, increasing, from the Dominican Republic, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Nigeria. An estimated 4,500 American citizens also make their home in Antigua and Barbuda, making their numbers one of the largest American populations in the English-speaking Eastern Caribbean.
74% of Antiguans are Christians, with the Anglicans (about 44%) being the largest single denomination. Other Christian denominations present are Baptists, Presbyterians and Roman Catholics.
Non-Christian religions practised in the islands include the Rastafari Movement, Islam, Judaism and the Bahá'í Faith.
Tourism dominates the economy, accounting for more than half of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Antigua is famous for its many luxury resorts. Weak tourist activity since early 2000 has slowed the economy, however, and squeezed the government into a tight fiscal corner.
Investment banking and financial services also make up an important part of the economy. Major world banks with offices in Antigua include the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and Scotiabank. Financial-services corporations with offices in Antigua include PriceWaterhouseCoopers. The US Securities and Exchange Commission has accused the Antigua-based Stanford International Bank, owned by Texas billionaire Allen Stanford, of orchestrating a huge fraud which may have bilked investors of some $8 billion.
The twin-island nation's agricultural production is focused on its domestic market and constrained by a limited water supply and a labour shortage stemming from the lure of higher wages in tourism and construction work.
Manufacturing is made up of enclave-type assembly for export, the major products being bedding, handicrafts and electronic components. Prospects for economic growth in the medium term will continue to depend on income growth in the industrialised world, especially in the United States, from which about one-third of all tourists come.
Following the opening of the American University of Antigua College of Medicine by investor and attorney Neil Simon in 2003, a new source of revenue was established. The university employs many local Antiguans and the approximate 1000 students consume a large amount of the goods and services.