Virgin Islands


During the 17th century, the archipelago was divided into two territorial units, one English and the other Danish. Sugarcane, produced by slave labour, drove the islands’ economy during the 18th and early 19th centuries. In 1917, the US purchased the Danish portion, which had been in economic decline since the abolition of slavery in 1848.


Location: Caribbean, islands between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of Puerto Rico
Geographic coordinates: 18 20 N, 64 50 W
Population: 105,275 (July 2012 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 19.5% (male 10,886/female 10,470)

15-64 years: 66 65.2% (male 33,280/female 38,210)

65 years and over: 15.3% (male 7,626/female 9,194) (2011 est.)

Country name: conventional long form: United States Virgin Islands

conventional short form: Virgin Islands

former: Danish West Indies

abbreviation: USVI

Dependency status: organized, unincorporated territory of the US with policy relations between the Virgin Islands and the US under the jurisdiction of the Office of Insular Affairs, US Department of the Interior
Telephones – main lines in use: 75,800 (2009)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 80,300 (2005)
Airports: 2 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 2

over 3,047 m: 1

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2012)

Defence is the responsibility of the US.


Tourism is the primary economic activity, accounting for 80% of GDP and employment. The islands hosted 2.6 million visitors in 2005. The manufacturing sector consists of petroleum refining, textiles, electronics, pharmaceuticals, and watch assembly. One of the world’s largest petroleum refineries is at Saint Croix. The agricultural sector is small, with most food being imported. International business and financial services are small but growing components of the economy. The islands are vulnerable to substantial damage from storms. The government is working to improve fiscal discipline, to support construction projects in the private sector, to expand tourist facilities, to reduce crime, and to protect the environment.