Tourism is the main source of income for St Lucia and the industry is its biggest employer.
The tropical eastern Caribbean island boasts beaches, mountains, exotic plants and the Qualibou volcano with its boiling sulphur springs.
Before the visitor influx, banana exports sustained St Lucia, especially after 1964 when it stopped producing sugar cane.
Along with other Caribbean producers it benefited from preferred access to European markets, at the expense of Latin American growers. The World Trade Organisation has ruled that the practice should be phased out.
Crops such as mangoes and avocados are also grown, but bananas are the biggest source of foreign exchange after tourism.
Most St Lucians are the descendants of African slaves, brought in by the British in the 19th century to work on sugar plantations.
Although St Lucia is a former British colony, the French settled in the 17th century. Their influence lives on in the patois spoken in the country.
- Full name: Saint Lucia
- Population: 176,000 (UN, 2011)
- Capital: Castries
- Major languages: English (official), French patois
- Major religion: Christianity
- Life expectancy: 72 years (men), 78 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: 1 East Caribbean dollar = 100 cents
- Main exports: Bananas, clothing, cocoa, vegetables, fruits, coconut oil
- GNI per capita: US $6,680 (World Bank, 2011)
- Internet domain: .lc
- International dialling code: +1758
Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Pearlette Louisy
Prime minister: Kenny Anthony
Kenny Anthony, the leader of the St Lucia Labour Party (SLP), took office in December 2011 following a general election at which his party won a majority of the 17 seats in parliament.
At his swearing-in, 60-year-old Mr Anthony warned St Lucians of a "difficult and challenging" road ahead and said no single political party could manage the island's affairs alone.
He pledged to boost the economy, reduce crime and improve the prospects for young people.
His predecessor, Stephenson King from the United Workers Party (UWP), became prime minister in September 2007 following the death of veteran leader Sir John Compton.
Kenny Anthony served as prime minister between 1997 and 2006.
St Lucia's newspapers and broadcasters are mainly privately-owned and carry a range of views. The government operates a radio network.
There are no daily newspapers; the island has two thrice-weekly newspapers.
There were 142,900 internet users by June 2010 (via Internetworldstats.com).
- The Voice - three issues per week
- The Mirror - weekly
- The Star - three issues per week
- The Crusader - weekly
- The Vanguard - weekly
- One Caribbean - weekly