Good morning Colleagues … First of all, it’s a great pleasure to welcome the combined team of the Ministry of Tourism and the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority to this important meeting. Indeed, I expect this meeting to produce plans, strategies and outcomes that will set the tourism industry on an upward trajectory. From this meeting, I want new, creative ideas that will serve to considerably enhance our place in the world market as one of the leading tourism destinations globally. I want to hear what my friend, Ambassador Sir Ron Sanders, once described to me as “disruptive thinking” – thinking that questions the norms and pushes the boundaries of the imagination. You, this group assembled here, are the custodians of our nation’s economic growth. For tourism is our main industry accounting for almost 70% of our gross domestic product, earning 90% of our foreign exchange, and employing directly and indirectly the majority of people in both our public and private sector. I cannot stress enough the value and significance of tourism to every man, woman and child in our society. Without tourism, our country would be a wasteland and our people reduced to carriers of water and hewers of wood. The responsibility that we have – all of you and me, as the Minister of Tourism, – is huge. It is a sacred trust that we must fulfill on behalf of our country, and all who dwell within it. If we are to fulfill that trust, we must see it as an honorable and vital task. We must think of achieving what others believe to be impossible. I recently read something that Sir Dennis Byron, the President of the Caribbean Court of Justice said. I would like to repeat it to you, because it is relevant to you, to me, and to all of us who must succeed if our country is to flourish and our people prosper. It is this: “The most successful people in the history of the world are those who refused to give up in the face of impossible odds. Thomas Edison created the light bulb after one thousand failed attempts. Abraham Lincoln ran for public office six times before winning the Presidency. Vincent Van Gogh sold one painting in his lifetime and his most expensive work is now valued at $142.7 million. Colonel Sanders’ idea for a fried chicken restaurant was rejected 1,009 times before being accepted by an investor. Twelve publishers rejected JK Rowling’s book about a boy wizard called Harry Potter. Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first job and told she was not the right fit for television”. What makes these people enormously successful is their refusal to give up; their refusal to accept that they were too small, or that they did not have enough resources. They kept focussed on the achievement of their goals and they let none persuade them that they could not overcome the obstacles. According to a Japanese proverb you must be prepared to fall seven times and get up eight. The great Muhammed Ali put it best when he said: “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential”. My friends, this is our first meeting as the leadership team. We should have had a week to explore every option; to discuss every scenario; to plan for the challenges and to map-out how we will grab the opportunities. But, our time is limited, and ours is a country in a hurry. We want results sooner not later. So, we will cram into one day today what others may want many days to accomplish. That is why I started with the theme of success and the theory of impossibility. Impossibility is potential; it is a dare not an edict; it is an opinion, not a fact. So, I want us all to embrace fully the sacred trust we carry for our nation – and, indeed, for ourselves. This nation looks to us to perform and to perform well. If we let-down the people, we let down ourselves. And we must do neither. We have many projects coming on stream. We have the responsibility to fill those rooms. But, while that is happening, we have a few existing properties that are non-performing. We have to figure out what can be done to make those properties vibrant again. We are facing fierce competition now – not only from our Caribbean neighbours, but also from further afield. How are we to meet that competition and better it? These are the issues that we must confront today, and every day after we leave here. And we must do so as a team; as a collective with a single-minded purpose, and a bold and unshakable resolve. I wish I could guarantee you that the days of little or no product development are over, and that minimal destination-advertising is a thing of the past, and that sparse public relations are over. But my government inherited a critical and perilous financial situation, and even as we are pledged to fund our tourism industry better than before, the complexities of our situation gives no guarantees. My Government will strive very hard to put the resources into tourism as the engine of our growth – the Prime Minister as the Minister of Finance has given that undertaking, and he means it. He is a banker and a businessman. He knows that there can be no profit without investment; no returns without spending. But we have a role to play. To do much with little. To do more with less. To reject that anything is impossible, and instead to show how it is possible. That is why we must spare no time or effort in making tourism vigourous and productive. To the extent that we – this team – can galvanize, energize and revitalize this industry, to that extent we will deliver what is expected of us; we will generate more revenues and earn a larger share of the resources to make our country flourish and our people prosper. Like many of you, I continue to expand my own knowledge of the business of tourism and I’m learning quickly. As we have our exchange today, I want you to be open with the facilitators and with yourselves. Our overriding objective of the next two days is focused on the plans that will be produced and effective means by which – as a team – we will deliver concrete and measurable results for the benefit of our country. In any free market economy we continually face challenges – – tourism is no different – – but how we view these challenges defines us! Do we choose to see the challenges as ‘opportunities” or as ‘obstacles’? Are they a moment to despair or a chance to do something different? A great deal of wasted energy can be spent focusing on a negative mindset which takes delight in complaining – mindsets like “I can’t”, “I won’t”, “I don’t want to” and “I shouldn’t have to”. But, we should all recall what put Barack Obama – an American Black in the White House. It was a simple phrase, but a powerful one in which he and millions of Americans placed their belief. Three little words that moved an entire nation – “Yes, we can”. Well, yes, we can too. And we can do it best, if we do it together. Your role now is to roll up your sleeves and believe not only in the value and importance of the sacred trust that has been given to you by this nation, but also to believe in yourselves that – yes, you can. And, you will. My friends, our task is agreed. The path is clear and the objective looms large ahead of us. Let us run with resolve the race that is set before us. Let us get tourism to work. Thank you.