Today, the principle source of income in the archipelago is, without a doubt, tourism. Fishing continues to be important, though during the last several years, the inhabitants of the archipelago have been shifting their work from craftsman fishing to activities related to tourism.
There are countless tourist attractions from nature, cultural, and scientific points of view that have converted tourism into an authentic motor of San Andres Islands’ economy. The high season marks the island with an hectic pace of life. Each inhabitant finds a way to capitalize on this important time, the influx to the islands of hundreds of thousands of Colombians and foreigners, to help her ride out the low points of the year. Hotels, during high season, can be booked up to 80 – 95% of their total capacity.
The root economic activity of the islands had always been based on agriculture and fishing. Today, however, the island incomes are focused almost exclusively on tourism, craftsman fishing, and labor in the sector of goods and services.
Near the end of the XVIII Century, the archipelago’s main economic activity came from the production and exportation of cotton. Coconut, too, was another important product that became a protagonist in the island’s economy in the second half of the XX century. The islands also invested in the cultivation of avocado, sugar cane, orange, cocoa, name, quinoa among other agricultural products. Because the island soil isn’t great for agriculture, add the misuse and abuse of lands, and the agricultural activity of the islands was stunted.
In the second half of the XX Century, there was a huge migration of Continetal Colombians, foreigners from the Middle East and Central America, when the Islands were declared a Free Port by General Rojas Pinilla. Maritime and air commerce exploded, and low-priced merchandise arrived. At this time tourism began to merge as a principle economic forcé in the islands.
The North End of the islands became the urban nucleus of the archipelago. Here, in the northernmost area of the islands, is where you can find the majority of the island’s economic activities. The doors were open to dozens of banks, hotels, restaurants, casinos, perfume stores, and State Buildings.
In contrast, Providencia maintains its moderate agro-fishing activities, tightly tied to the nature of its soils and their extension. Tourism here has a low environmental impact. Mega projects and hotels don’t exist on the islands because of the islanders themselves are involved in family businesses and lodging to offer services to tourists, rustic and pristine, to maintain the ecology and far-away feel of the island. These family businesses promote the cultural identity of the island as well as the tranquility and respect for the delicate balance of the eco systems.