Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy (2nd from right) makes a point during the press briefing of Barbados Gospelfest 2012 – Touching Lives – Changing our Nation, at the Divi Southwinds Beach Resort.?? Also pictured are (from left) General Manager of Divi Southwinds, Alvin Jemmott; Managing Director of Chefette Restaurants, Ryan Haloute; Gospelfest Executive Producer, Adrian Agard; and Senator Dr. David Durant. (C. Pitt/BGIS)??

Gospelfest 2012 promises to be an "awesome" event this year, one that will contribute to tourism and promote local talent.

This sentiment was expressed by Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, as he addressed a press briefing for the festival this morning at the Divi Southwinds Beach Resort.

Now in its 20th year, the festival, which will be hosted from May 19 to 27, has grown into a premier event; and Mr. Sealy said that Barbados Gospelfest ???Awesome’ 2012 Platinum Edition: Touching Lives – Changing Our Nation would deliver the quality product to which patrons had grown accustomed.

The Tourism Minister said that Gospelfest continued to demonstrate "real tourism potential" and revealed that it "…was initially started as, largely, a tourism venture, but it has certainly grown into much more than that – and that’s not unusual.??

"When I tell people that the Crop Over festival was started by the Board of Tourism in the 70s, they doubt me; but that is what Crop Over was started as a vehicle to get tourists to come here during the summer.?? Of course it has gone way beyond that now, and this venture is [looking to] become something very big."

Minister Sealy noted that the promise of what was to come was evident during the inaugural event in 1993, which was held at the Wildey Gymnasium.?? He recalled that "visitors from all over were there.?? It was not a Barbadian event, it was an international event, and you were just out of the blocks."??

Gospelfest 2012 has received sponsorship from local and international sources, and national tourism entities.?? Minister Sealy remarked that "…the Barbados Tourism Authority has ramped up its involvement; more resources have been placed at the disposal of the [Gospelfest] committee…[WestJet] will be offering some specials for our Canadian brothers and sisters who want to come and be part of this experience, and American Airlines is doing a similar thing as well."

Gospelfest Executive Producer, Adrian Agard, underscored this point, and noted that the event had received support from New York-based Emerald Entertainment, which facilitated the linkages with the airlines and the inclusion of health and wellness sessions and a dance conference into the 2012 line-up.

Local sponsors also received special recognition, as the Tourism Minister?? observed that "these are trying times, and we all know one of the first budgets to get hit when you’re trying to cut costs is promotional, marketing, PR, [and] community [outreach]; so that alone is a feat.?? That [Gospelfest Executive Producer] Adrian Agard can get so many companies to come on board, and in many cases these are repeat partners, [with] one or two new ones coming on board – [and] in a big way…it is a credit to the team."

In addition, Mr. Sealy saluted the partnership between Gospelfest and Divi Southwinds Beach Resort, describing General Manager, Alvin Jemmott, as "a believer in the whole concept of event-based tourism"; and Chefette Restaurants, represented by Managing Director, Ryan Haloute, which had shown its dedication to the event by offering sponsorship over a nine-year period.

The Minister thanked the coordinators of the festival for taking up the mantle once again to deliver the event and said that he looked forward to an "awesome Gospelfest 2012".??


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