Tourism is the main source of income for St Lucia and the industry is its biggest employer.
The tropical eastern Caribbean island boasts beaches, mountains, exotic plants and the Qualibou volcano with its boiling sulphur springs.
Before the visitor influx, banana exports sustained St Lucia, especially after 1964 when it stopped producing sugar cane.
Crops such as mangoes and avocados are also grown, but bananas are the biggest source of foreign exchange after tourism.
Most St Lucians are the descendants of African slaves, brought in by the British in the 19th century to work on sugar plantations.
Although St Lucia is a former British colony, the French settled in the 17th century. Their influence lives on in the patois spoken in the country.
Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a Governor-General
Prime Minister: Allen Chastanet
Allen Chastanet was sworn in as St Lucia's sixth prime minister in June 2016 after his United Workers' Party (UWP) beat the ruling Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) in the general election.
An economist and hotelier, Mr Chastanet previously served as tourism minister.
During his election campaign, he pledged to tackle unemployment and scrap an unpopular sales tax.
St Lucia's newspapers and broadcasters are mainly privately-owned and carry a range of views.
Some key dates in St Lucia's history:
1501 - St Lucia sighted by Christopher Columbus.
1635 - The French establish a colony on St Lucia.
1660 - The French sign a treaty with the indigenous Carib people.
1814 - France cedes St Lucia to Britain following the Treaty of Paris; Britain proclaims the island a crown colony and brings in African slaves to work on the sugar cane plantations.
1834 - Slavery abolished.
1967 - St Lucia becomes fully self-governing in internal affairs, with Britain remaining in charge of external matters and defence.
1979 - St Lucia becomes independent.