The Bahamas, officially the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, is a country consisting of 29 islands. It is located in the Atlantic Ocean north of Cuba and Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti), northwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands, and southeast of the United States.
Geographically, the Bahamas lie in the same island chain as Cuba. The Bahamas were the site of Columbus' first landfall in the New World in 1492.
The climate of the Bahamas is subtropical to tropical, and is moderated significantly by the waters of the Gulf Stream, particularly in winter. Conversely, this often proves very dangerous in the summer and autumn, when hurricanes pass near or through the islands. The Bahamas is a sovereign independent nation. Political and legal traditions closely follow those of the United Kingdom and the Westminster system. The Bahamas is a parliamentary democracy with two main parties. Tourism generates about half of all jobs, but the number of visitors has dropped significantly since the beginning of the global economic downturn during the last quarter of 2008. The colours embodied in the design of the Bahamian flag symbolise the image and aspirations of the people of the Bahamas; the design reflects aspects of the natural environment (sun, sand, and sea) and the economic and social development. The yellow elder was chosen as the national flower of the Bahamas because it is native to the Bahama Islands, and it blooms throughout the year. One of the most prosperous countries in the Caribbean region, the Bahamas relies on tourism to generate most of its economic activity. Tourism as an industry not only accounts for over 60 percent of the Bahamian GDP, but provides jobs for more than half the country's workforce. In the less developed outer islands, handicrafts include basketry made from palm fronds. This material, commonly called "straw", is plaited into hats and bags that are popular tourist items.