Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has been chosen as the Champion for the National Tourism Host Programme.

Mr. Stuart, who is very pleased to be associated with the tourism programme, intends to carry out his responsibilities with fervour.

???The role of the tourist industry in Barbados cannot be overstated. This is the industry that basically pays our bills and has been doing so for many years now. It is everybody???s business in Barbados, and since we are in an arena of aggressive competition, it is important that Barbados exploits every opportunity to secure a competitive edge in its offerings.

???No Prime Minister of Barbados can ignore the role of this industry and no Prime Minister should shun any opportunity given to him or her to bring the full weight of his office to bear on what the industry is doing,??? he reasoned.

Prime Minister Stuart made the comments recently after the Advisor to the National Tourism Host Programme???s Task Force, May Hinds, made a presentation on the programme and the role of the Champion. Also present were Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Richard Sealy; his Permanent Secretary, Shelley Carrington; Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister???s Office, Sonja Welch; and other public servants.

Underscoring the importance of the programme, Minister Sealy said it was necessary to introduce a meaningful initiative which could take Barbados??? tourism offering to another level.

He continued: ???If this National Tourism Host Programme is to work where everyone sees him or herself as being part of the process, by being a host, then we need the leadership fully on board. Hence, that is why it is appropriate to invite the Prime Minister to be the Champion.

???A lot of work has gone into this [programme]; this is just a piece of the entire puzzle. We are setting up the Tourism Product Authority to come into being??? the first week in August and that will have responsibility for this. We are making all of these efforts to get the product part of it right???bricks and mortar are all well and good, but if we don???t get this part right, then we really would not have gained anything,??? he surmised.

Mr. Sealy said Mrs. Hinds had done a lot of ???very good work??? with the programme and he proffered the view that Barbados was ???on to something??? great. ???Something which can truly differentiate us, not only as a special destination in the Caribbean, but I genuinely believe that this is a key ingredient in separating ourselves from the rest of those offering tourism services in the world,??? he added.

The primary goal of the National Tourism Host Programme is to ensure that this country realises its potential as a tourism destination, as it seeks to sustain a culture of excellence in all aspects of its destination management.

The two components of the programme are Barbados Together, which seeks to improve the knowledge base of citizens through education and awareness capacity building, and Hosting Bajan Style, which looks at the institutional and policy framework.

The first phase of the programme started in December 2011 and ended in June 2012, while the second phase will begin later this year. Jamaica and The Bahamas have similar host programmes.

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