Guadeloupe fights uphill battle to attract tourists

Wed Feb 16, 2011 12:45pm EST
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By Robert Evans

LE GOSIER, Guadeloupe (Reuters Life!) - Six voracious, brown pelicans put on a show of power fishing for visitors taking a leisurely breakfast on Guadeloupe -- France's "Butterfly Island" in the Caribbean.

As the ferry from the main town, Pointe-a-Pitre, heads across the bay to the offshore island of Marie-Galante, the birds launch a dive-bomb plunge to catch their prey. Not one resurfaces without a fish.

But despite aerobatic pelicans, 2010 was a bad year for Guadeloupe, one of France's four overseas regions with some 405,000 people.

During a brief visit earlier this year to Guadeloupe and its neighbor Martinique, French President Nicholas Sarkozy unveiled a plan to lure more foreign, and French, visitors to their sun-soaked beaches and other attractions.

"Tourism is obviously vital for your development," Sarkozy said in Martinique, adding that France would help the region but only if there were matching local efforts on the islands to improve the situation.

Only two percent of tourists going to the Caribbean head for what France calls the French Antilles -- Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy.

During his visit Sarkozy cited a less than vibrant tourist sector with a run-down infrastructure.

"The more you take charge of your own future, the more we will come in with you," he added.   Continued...

<p>General view of the Soufriere volcano, in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe November 10, 2010. REUTERS/Charles Platiau</p>