What Are The Biggest Industries In Barbados?

Tourism is one of the biggest industries in Barbados.
Tourism is one of the biggest industries in Barbados.

Barbados is an island country in the Caribbean region of North America. It is located in the western region of the North Atlantic and covers an area of approximately 167 miles. Its capital and the largest city is Bridgetown, located within the Parish of Saint Michael. Barbados attained its independence on November 30, 1966, and became a Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth II as the hereditary head of state. The country has a population of approximately 287,000 people, of which the majority are of African descent. Since independence, the economy of Barbados has over the years been transformed from a high-income economy dependent on sugar production to an upper-middle-income economy based on offshore and tourism sectors. The economic growth rate has averaged between 3-5% since 1993 (after 3 years of recession). The economy is mainly driven by foreign direct investment, tourism, and international trade sector. Here are the major industries of Barbados that have contributed to its economic growth over the years.


Tourism is one of the leading and fastest growing industries in the world and is one of the main export earners for a large number of countries including Barbados. Over the years, the economy of Barbados has transformed from agriculture-based (sugar production) to tourism-based. Tourism has replaced agriculture to become the major engine for economic growth. It contributes significantly to the country’s employment, foreign earnings, and gross domestic product. Tourism is one of the major sources of employment in Barbados, accounting for about 10% of the workforce and accounts for almost half of the economy. Over the last half a century, Barbados’ tourism products have grown from just sand and sea to more diverse products able to meet the various needs of its visitors including festivals, nature-based, heritage, and sports. Barbados is now popular for its high-end hotels, world-class golf courses, and other conventional attractions. The only challenge facing the tourism sector is that most of its facilities are concentrated on the south coast. In a bid to make tourism more attractive, the government of Barbados is investing in achieving and maintaining international standards such as Green Globe certification of its products and the AAA Diamond Rating.


Agriculture was and still is an important sector and contributor to Barbados’ gross domestic product. When the early explorers visited the island in the 16th century, they quickly realized that it had no mineral resources. The first settlers in the 17th century settled on agriculture, especially tobacco and cotton production and sold these products in Europe. Agriculture quickly became the island’s main economic activity. Today, agriculture is one of the main employers of the Barbados population, accounting for approximately 27% of the workforce. About 16,000 hectares of land (37% of the total land area) is considered as arable land. The agricultural sector in Barbados is dominated by sugarcane production. At some point, almost all the arable land was covered by sugarcane plants. The country produced 0.5 million tons of sugarcane in 1999 and in 2001, the produce generated US% 22 million in export earnings or 8.4% of the total exports. In addition to sugarcane and its products, several food crops are also produced on the island, especially starchy root crops. These food crops are mainly grown on sugar plantation after the sugarcane has been harvested. The crops are grown under the Local Food Production Control Order of 1942. Some of the food crops produced in medial scale include yam, sweet potatoes, cassava, corn, and beans. The major challenge facing the agricultural industry is the inadequate rainfall and lack of irrigation. Livestock keeping is not a major economic activity on the island as there is no sufficient pasture for the animals. Nonetheless, there are about 23,000 heads of cattle, 5,000 goats, and 41,000 sheep, mainly kept by individual households.

Manufacturing And Mining

The manufacturing industry of Barbados was one of the worst-hit industries by the economic recession of the 1990s. The sector is yet to fully recover from the effects of recession by there has been evidence of growth. This industry has employed about 10,000 Barbadians. Except for a few industries such as sugar processing and rum distilling, the majority of the industrial activities in Barbados are aimed at the local market. Manufactured goods aimed at the local market include tinned foods, cigarettes, and drinks. The export market has particularly suffered from the increased completion from the cheap Caribbean countries. Barbados has very limited mineral resources and relies mainly on imports to meet the local demands. Another significant employer in the country is the petroleum sector. Oil deposits are located in the southern parishes but commercial exploration is yet to take place. The island also has deposits of coral and limestone which have been quarried to meet construction needs. In 2000, limestone production amounted to 1.5 million tons. Other minerals that provide significant yields include clay, sand, and gravel.

Financial Services

The international trade and financial service sector are important contributors to the economy of Barbados. This sector, alongside tourism, have played a critical role in transforming the economy into what it is today. During the 200/2011 fiscal year, the financial service sector contributed approximately 60% of the total corporate tax intake or Bds$ 186 million. By the end of 2010, Barbados had 45 offshore banks, 3,065 international business companies, 242, insurance companies, and over 400 international societies with restricted liabilities. The major challenge facing the financial sector is the threat of international sanctions from the EU and OECD due to concerns of money laundering.


The fishing industry in Barbados has long been a significant component of the local economic activity. This sector provides effective food for both the locals and visitors and is also an important source of employment for the locals. Overall, the fishing industry in the country provides direct and indirect employment and income to about 6,000 Barbadians. The fishing industry is dominated by self-employed people who are mainly involved in fishing, processing, distribution, export, and boat building. In 2000, the country recorded a catch of about 3,100 metric tons. Some of the common fish species in Barbados’ waters include dolphin fish, flying fish, tuna, kingfish, and swordfish.


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