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well the french finally installing electricity in the 1960s was a start. hard to be a haven for the wealthy or tourists in general without electricity. from that point on they simply worked to make the island a tourist attraction by building hotels.
Usually, when something becomes popular, it loses its appeal to those who want to do the "in" things and be a part of the "in crowd." A few well placed news reports on celebrities vacationing at St. Bart's gets noticed, Conde Nast does a few articles on the place, the St. Bart's Chamber of Commerce (or whatever equivalent self-promotion agency it has) appears at a few travel agent conventions promoting itself and handing out free goodies to travel agents, and "all of a sudden" it becomes a hot spot for getting away.