Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Richard Sealy, has showered praise on the partners who have made the Food and Wine and Rum Festival a success.

He made this observation recently while addressing celebrity chefs, industry officials and other specially invited guests attending a reception at Hilton Barbados.

Mr. Sealy said that the partnership with American Express had borne fruit and as a result, there was an increase in American Express card holders visiting the island.

???We have data from the American Express card holders to suggest significant increases in expenses around this time and this shows that the American Express relationship is having an impact. In fact, during the course of the Food and Wine and Rum Festival, we are seeing increases in American Express membership coming to Barbados on vacation.

So, the relationship is bearing fruit and the word is getting out there that Barbados is some place where you can have a genuine culinary experience that is different,??? he added.

The Minister acknowledged that the industry was changing but said repeat visitors returned for the opportunity to ???experience a fish cutter ??? or to sample food from the back of a ??? van or fried chicken from Oistins???.

???Apart from that, we still have the best fine dining restaurants anywhere and ???it???s good to have that range of eating experiences and it explains why we feel that we have to continue to develop this festival. I believe that this [Food and Wine and Rum Festival] can take on something of national proportions and can become one of the most important events on the tourism calendar. I am more convinced, on the basis of what I saw in Oistins in terms of the capacity to get the whole island to buy-in, that it can become a truly national event,??? he added.

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