Master of Ceremonies; members of the Cabinet, members of the Senate, members of the House of Assembly, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner, members of the Task Force of the National Tourism Host Programme, the Launch Committee of the National Tourism Host Programme, strategic partners, members of the media, ladies and gentlemen.

Good Evening.??I join with the previous speakers in welcoming you to the launch of the National Tourism Host Programme (NTHP). I appreciate your attendance this evening which in itself shows that you understand the significance of this important programme.

As you have heard the NTHP is a national initiative which focuses on managing Destination Barbados. Visitors to our country from the time they arrive at a port of entry, are influenced by the many services we offer which combined, determine the quality of their experience.

In order to remain viable within a growing competitive tourism sector, as hosts we must ensure that the interactions of our guests within both the private and public sectors are of the highest quality. Make no mistake about it, the worldwide growth in tourism demand has resulted in unprecedented levels of competition among destinations as they try to capture an increasing share of the industry.

Traditional and emerging destinations are investing in modern products and services and modern marketing strategies and they are also developing their infrastructure in order to meet the demands of the visitor. Barbados addresses all of those areas.

But how can we develop a competitive advantage? That can only happen if we effectively manage what we have here in Barbados, and that is in essence an extended definition of what I was referring to as Destination Management.

The Barbados tourism sector is complex and therefore the NTHP, given what I said about the increase competition, is indeed a very timely initiative. For many years we have invested significant financial resources in marketing Barbados as a destination internationally, whilst not concomitantly giving product the same high level of attention it requires.

We have now reached a very critical stage where we have spent over sixty years in the business of tourism, and as with any business, we need now to see how best we can rejuvenate our product. The future development of this industry must not be left to chance but there must be a concerted and coordinated effort from Government and other stakeholders to provide strategic direction to this vital sector.

In managing our destination we must consistently seek to deliver positive, memorable experiences and excellent value for money for our visitors. They must be encouraged to return and recommend Barbados to friends and families and we must ensure that this happens by providing the right type and quality of service.

There has been a call for a large tourism awareness campaign in Barbados; a recent one. We all know we had the old campaign which featured the very famous, apt and succinct slogan ???Tourism is our business, let us play our part???. Now what we are doing with the National Tourism Host Programme is simply saying if it is our business and we must play our part, then we have to understand it better.

So the NTHP???s goal is to enhance the knowledge base and raise levels of awareness of the importance of the various facets of the country???s tourism product, among those persons employed or associated with the hospitality industry, but with the general population as well. And that is what we refer to as the Barbados Together element of the Programme.

You can well appreciate that this is needed and is a matter of concern for the entire country. Barbados is a small island state. Our size and our very approach to tourism dictate that our tourism belt is the entire country. Allow me to place on record my deep appreciation to Ms. May Hinds Consulting Inc. who conceptualized the NTHP and who stayed the course from conceptualization to implementation. A true patriot, she has worked hard on this project. May, thank you.

In our efforts at nation building, Barbados has built up an enviable record of forging strategic partnerships over the years. In drawing on that legacy, the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport has formed strategic partnerships as an important plank towards the success of the NTHP.

Some of these partners that we have been working diligently with would include: The National Conservation Commission;??The Grantley Adams International Airport Inc.;??The Royal Barbados Police Force;??The Barbados Port Inc. and Barbados Cruise Terminal Inc.;??The Sanitation Service Authority;??The Barbados Youth Development Council and??The Immigration Department.

Tourism does not exist in a vacuum and therefore its very existence depends on exploiting and developing the synergies with these various agencies.??The Ministry of Tourism and International Transport expects to engage the management of the Transport Board and the Customs and Excise Department to also complete the circle of strategic linkages.

These stakeholders, in collaboration with a unit within the Barbados Tourism Product Authority known as the Hosting Bajan Style Unit will be the key drivers of the NTHP. That Unit, if you would allow me to say something very briefly about it, will be referred to as Hosting Bajan Style, and in essence is the second component of the National Tourism Host Programme. This will seek to improve the institutional and policy framework within Government in an effort to ensure that Destination Barbados retains and improves its competitive edge internationally and regionally.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are driving and co-ordinating destination management within the framework of a coherent strategy. I have already alluded to the inter sectoral partnership of the NTHP. Our thrust at building strategic bridges does not end there. We have a Task Force that is providing advice on the current and future direction of the NTHP.

And we will be allowing various interest groups to participate in those discussions – the Church, labour, the private sector and others. I want to applaud the strategic partners for working with the Task Force and their contribution has also been invaluable.

The community aspects of the NTHP are particularly important. I have always tried to endorse the concept of community tourism and I am particularly pleased that the Parish Ambassadors, and Constituency Councils have come out in their numbers to participate in this programme. We have developed a map for each parish, highlighting the wonders of the various parishes and seeing how communities can work together to bring potential tourism projects to fruition.

Such involvement allows us to include each and every Barbadian in the development of both national and cultural community resources for tourism purposes. This serves the dual purpose of adding value to the visitor experience and also assures the sustainability of the tourism product because citizens see more clearly their role in the entire process of enhancing the tourism industry.

If the NTHP is to succeed, we must appreciate, acknowledge and celebrate all of the positive aspects of our rich, cultural heritage. As RPB has said in song penned specifically for the programme:

???An experience of lasting memory
Of our life, our culture, our caring
To build bridges of friendship daily
With dignity we are sharing???.

I implore all of you to join me in giving your unwavering support to the NTHP. Let us all reaffirm the vital role that we must play as Barbadian citizens, to ensure that our guests enjoy themselves here. In closing I take this opportunity to thank the Launch Committee for their hard work in preparing for this afternoon???s activities.I leave you with the vision of the NTHP:

???We will create a sustained national consciousness that allows us to proudly share our home and serve all persons with dignity and by so doing deliver a positive experience every time.?????I now take great pleasure in launching the National Tourism Host Programme.

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