Originally, luxury took hold on its own in Saint-Barthélemy, with the arrival of the first wealthy clientele, the construction of large hotels then the installation of luxury brands (with specific creations).
From 1957, one of the illustrious precursors of tourism in Saint-Barthélemy was David Rockefeller. Seduced by this island, discovered by chance, he then abandoned the Bahamas archipelago, too accessible and losing its elitist character. The geographical position of Saint-Barthélemy is interesting: this island in the north of the West Indies arc is quite close to the United States of America. The businessman fell under the spell of this small island, its timeless tropical countryside. He decided to invest and bought land overlooking the sea in the northern end of the island. From this installation, a whole fashion phenomenon will develop in wealthy circles in the United States. At first, it was guests who joined the businessman in his pretty villa. Politicians, other businessmen, Hollywood stars. And each year, among these guests, who constitute the first tourists of Saint-Barth, some in turn decided to invest in the island and buy land and real estate. Gradually, Saint-Barthélemy became a discreet destination for a handful of elites coming from the East Coast of the United States, such as President John Kennedy who spent his vacations there in the early 1960s.
It was therefore from the 1960s that the tourist process began. It all started with the construction of comfortable private villas, luxurious without being too ostentatious, located around Saint-Jean Bay and along the entire north coast of the island, less exposed to the winds. The first hotel establishments are created. Very quickly, the hotels imposed their character and their originality and the prestigious clienteles were there to build and lay the foundations of their legend. The luxury hotel establishment must have its own legend. Luxury does not only reside in the construction of decorum, finesse and quality of architecture and materials, it is chosen by wealthy clienteles who like to meet there, share moments of life with each other, far away from the rest of the world, far from outside eyes.
The luxury there was not “bling-bling”, nor ostentatious vulgarity, but a luxury of refinement, elegance with a touch of distinction, impeccable professional services, a high level of security. The excess of money and not the display of one's wealth. Luxury is coveted rarity, selective access, the perfect product!
Extract from the report The island of Saint-Barthélemy: a luxury tourism destination (2014)