The name Bahamas is of LucayanTaino (Arawakan) derivation, although some historians believe it is from the Spanish bajamar, meaning “shallow water.” The islands occupy a position commanding the gateway to the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and the entire Central American region. Their strategic location has given the history of The Bahamas a unique and often striking character. It was there that Christopher Columbus made his original landfall in the Americas. The subsequent fate of the peaceful original inhabitants remains one of the more tragic episodes in the development of the entire region, while the early attempts at European-dominated settlement were marked by intense national rivalries, interspersed with long periods of lawlessness and piracy. As a result, the society and culture that has evolved in The Bahamas is a distinctive blend of European and African heritages, the latter a legacy of the slave trade and the introduction of the plantation system using African slaves.
The Bahamas is a stable, developing nation with an economy heavily dependent on tourism and offshore banking. Steady growth in tourism receipts and a boom in construction of new hotels, resorts, and residences had led to solid GDP growth in recent years, but the slowdown in the US economy and the attacks of September 11, 2001 held back growth in these sectors in 2001-03. Financial services constitute the second-most important sector of the Bahamian economy, accounting for about 15% of GDP. However, since December 2000, when the government enacted new regulations on the financial sector, many international businesses have left The Bahamas. Manufacturing and agriculture together contribute approximately a tenth of GDP and show little growth, despite government incentives aimed at those sectors. Overall growth prospects in the short run rest heavily on the fortunes of the tourism sector, which depends on growth in the US, the source of more than 80% of the visitors. In addition to tourism and banking, the government supports the development of a "2nd-pillar", e-commerce.