Guadeloupe: a paradise subsidized by France

August 25, 2015

 

As one of France’s two Caribbean ‘overseas departments’ (DOMs), Guadeloupe (pop. 400,000) is a popular vacation destination among French tourists. More than 80% of visitor arrivals come from metropolitan France, but the territory remains far less crowded and more affordable than most Caribbean islands.  It is virtually unvisited by American and other non-French tourists.

Attractions include lush rain forests, dramatic volcano, spectacular cascading waterfalls, crystal clear turquoise waters, charming villages, and French-Caribbean influenced culture and exquisite cuisine.

Real estate in Guadeloupe remains a bargain, compared to other Caribbean states. At the Pointe des Chateaux peninsula, on the eastern side, prices of three-bedroom oceanfront houses in upscale residential neighbourhoods start at US$540,000.

In Malendure and its neighboring Bouillante on the Basse-Terre’s West Coast, homebuyers can buy inland houses of about 1,100 square feet (sq. ft.) for just US$71,000. A similar house located on the coast is priced at US$121,500.

In the main resort towns of Saint-François, Saint-Anne and Gosier, all in southern Guadeloupe, the average price of 340 sq. ft. studios is US$47,000. On the other hand, much larger one-bedroom apartments and condominiums at the Marina are priced from US$84,500 to US$137,000.

As in France, there are no restrictions on foreign ownership of properties in Guadeloupe.

France’s overseas department with several dependencies

Guadeloupe is one of France’s two Caribbean ‘overseas departments’ (DOMs) (Martinique is the other one). It has several ‘dependencies’: La Désirade to the east, Les Saintes to the south and Marie-Galante to the southeast. Guadeloupe used to include the half-island of St Martin and St Berthelemy, but the two became overseas territorial collectivities in February 2007, after they seceded.

Guadeloupe is known as the Butterfly Island because of the shape of two of its major islands—Basse-Terre to the west and Grande-Terre to the east—which are separated by a narrow channel, the Rivière-Salée. Grande-Terre is flat and has a dry climate, and is popular for its stunning resorts and main city Pointes-a-Pitres. On the other hand, Basse-Terre is mountainous and humid, and has an active volcano. Guadeloupe has good beaches, and tourism is increasingly important.

Departments are integral parts of the French Republic. French taxes apply, and French citizenship rights are given. The Departments send representatives to the National Assembly, the Senate, and elect a member of the European Parliament (Guadeloupe is now represented in the French parliament by four deputies and three senators).

Saint-Barthelemy (St Bart´s), now no longer part of Guadeloupe, lies 150 km east of Puerto Rico, near the islands of St Martin, Saba and Anguilla. It is a kind of Monaco in the French Caribbean, and many film-stars and jet-setters own homes there. Tourism explains in a large measure the very high standard of living on the island.

Guadeloupe´s cost of living is above the Caribbean average, since most products are imported.  Like mainland France, it uses the Euro (€).

Guadeloupe’s top tourist attractions

Attractions include:

  • Guadeloupe National Park, Basse-Terre Island – a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve,  the park has about 300 kilometers of hiking trails, plus the La Soufrière volcano at 1,467 meters, Col de la Matéliane at 1,298 meters, Cascade aux Ecrevisses waterfall and a wide range of flora and fauna.
  • La Grande Soufrière, Basse-Terre Island – the highest peak in the lesser Antilles, this active volcano has erupted eight times since 1660. Hikers can ascend the volcano along the Chemin des Dames trail. Hot springs, mud pools, fumaroles and waterfalls also add to its enchanting beauty.
  • Terre-de-Bas Island, the western island of Les Saintes – has small fishing villages, charming beaches and hiking trails. Popular activities include swimming, snorkeling and hiking.
  • Terre-de-Haut Island, eastern island of Les Saintes – has European-inspired pastel-coloured houses and brightly-painted fishing boats, a 17th-century for (Fort Napoléon) with a museum, and an Exotic Garden.
  • Zoological and Botanical Park, Basse-Terre – a popular hilltop garden and nature reserve located on the banks of the Rivière aux Hérbes. Visitors love the animals, which include tortoises, raccoons, monkeys, jaguars, and parrots, among others.
  • Sainte-Anne, Grand-Terre – Sainte Anne boasts one of the finest beaches in Guadeloupe, with its white sand and seaside promenade which invites tourists to stroll under the palms.
  • La Désirade – once a leper colony, this peaceful island is ringed with beautiful palm-fringed beaches and protected by long coral reefs. Snorkeling, swimming, diving and hiking are all popular activities.
  • La Pointe des Châteaux, Grande-Terre – a picturesque peninsula at the easternmost point of Grande Terre, the island exudes rugged beauty with its castle-like rock formations.
  • Plage du Souffleur, Port-Louis, Grande-Terre – considered one of Guadeloupe´s most beautiful beaches because of its wide-open stretch of beautiful white sand fringed with flame trees.
  • Jacques Cousteau´s Underwater Reserve, Pigeon Island – some of the territory´s best sub-aquatic scenery where turtles, large schools of fish, parrotfish, trumpet fish, and barracuda can be seen. Popular activities include snorkeling, scuba diving, wreck diving, and kayaking.

Social unrest has led to cheaper properties

The populations of Guadeloupe and Martinique are not much different, but Guadeloupe has 50% more land mass.

“The perception of difficulties is higher than in Martinique,” says Douglas Rapier of Atout Immobilier. “Guadeloupe has had more independence movement. They are more cognizant of the history of slavery, so social unrest is higher.”

High unemployment is a long-standing problem in Guadeloupe, currently standing at 25.8%, the fifth highest in the world, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). This leads to political and inter-racial tension.

Almost all local housing built in the DOMs is subsidized under the Loi Girardin, which allows 40% of a DOM-located property purchase cost to be written off against future tax payments (the parallel incentive in metropolitan France is the Loi De Robien). Such incentives have spurred an entire industry of financial consultants advising on ‘defiscalisation’.

The economy is dependent on tourism and agriculture. In addition, Guadeloupe relies very substantially on French subsidies.

 

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