Spain is seeking to explore ???new avenues of endeavour??? with Barbados as it works to broaden its image and objectives within the region.

This was pointed out recently as Ambassador of Spain to Barbados; J??se Mar?a Fern??ndez L??pez De Turiso paid a courtesy call on Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean at her Culloden Road office.

He said: ???In a way, Spain has seen an evolution in its policy towards the region and the Americas in general; we have a close relation with the United States; we are strategic partners??? But our political and economic interests have pushed us to have a greater role in the region.???

While noting that through CARICOM, Spain had been able, since July 1999, to promote its interest and play a developmental role in the region, Ambassador De Turiso stressed: ???After 15 years, we have to take a step forward. [We need] not only rely on the regional system but we must work bilaterally. We must start to build closer contacts and proceed in a bilateral manner with countries like Barbados.???

The Spanish Ambassador suggested a number of areas in which the two countries could deepen their relationship including security issues; telecommunications, culture, trade and investment and tourism. With respect to tourism, he said Spain, known for millions of tourists annually, saw this as ???a way to get out of the recession???, and with its experience in the industry, could support Barbados.

Senator McClean, noting that tourism was one area the two countries had in common, acknowledged that growth in this sector was one of the ways in which Barbados was seeking ???to get out of the recession???. Noting that with the approach of the end of the cruise season, all indications were that Barbados had a successful season, she said: ???To us tourism clearly is a priority area of cooperation and of course as your economy continues to improve we would like to welcome more of your Spanish visitors.???

The Minister expressed the hope that Spain would give consideration to undertaking some investment in tourism as well as language training in the hospitality sector. ???There is possibility [for this] and I believe there is room for investment to bring new brands to Barbados and that is an area in which we can concentrate,??? she said while encouraging the Ambassador to also consider the likelihood of chartered flights into the region.

Senator McClean acknowledged that a Mission from Spain to Barbados could also be valuable, allowing for ???some exploration??? that would prove beneficial in terms of know-how, marketing, development of new niches and new markets for the industry. The island???s Foreign Affairs Minister also made mention of the restructuring efforts on at the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) and said: ???We are having a renewed approach to tourism, developing new offerings, and new niches. I think that area is one which we can also explore with your tourism specialists.???

The two officials also touched on ways in which their countries could be ???more culturally involved???. While Ambassador De Turiso said Spain would seek to identify cultural partnerships and have cultural exchanges, Senator McClean acknowledged that Barbados was interested in bi-directional relations and an effort was on to identify a cultural music festival across Europe, where Barbadian artistes could perform.

Barbados and Spain established diplomatic relations on September 29, 1980.

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