It is indeed a pleasure for me to be here today on this very special occasion of the Commencement Ceremony of the 2017 graduating class of the Antigua and Barbuda Hospitality Training Institute.
Given the reputation of our people for hospitality, and the importance of tourism to the livelihoods of the Antigua & Barbuda people, I would rather be here this afternoon, than anywhere else.
Firstly, I extend the heartiest congratulations to all the graduating students for having successfully accomplished this significant milestone. I hope that your journey would be the continuation of very rewarding careers in the tourism industry.
I am extremely proud of you that you chose to formally continue your career in the industry, which is the lifeblood of Antigua & Barbuda’s economy. Gone are the days when people thought that enrolment at ABHTI was for those who were not “bright” academically and who just had to settle for second best. Today the institute is attracting the best of our young minds, who see a career in hospitality as an attractive lucrative and personally fulfilling one.
To the graduating class this afternoon, I am even more delighted that you have chosen our own indigenous hospitality and tourism Institution to pursue you careers in this industry. It is now in its 36th year and the ABHTI prides itself on successfully delivering training for excellence in tourism and hospitality.
As you are aware, the tourism industry is the nation’s lifeline and the major money-earning sector for the Antigua & Barbuda’s economy. Tourism is dynamic and it requires professionalism, positive attitudes, and excellence. I see these attributes on display today.
The ABHTI should be commended for its work in equipping you with the necessary training and education for Antigua & Barbuda to position itself as a leading player in the industry and to attain standards of global competitiveness. They have truly done a remarkable job.
As you continue your careers always seek to sharpen your mind and be receptive to new ideas and new ways of providing exceptional service that will ensure your survival in this highly competitive industry.
It is critical that you take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way to learn. Remember organisations are always willing to invest in people who demonstrate that enthusiasm to develop the skills and attributes necessary for success.
I know that it would have taken lots of dedicated study and personal sacrifices from each one of you, but you the graduates are now finally being rewarded. So congratulations are in order to both the ABHTI and to you the graduates because you have now become the latest testimony of this Government’s commitment to its people.
Tourism will continue to bring Antigua & Barbuda wealth and opportunities. The attitude and professionalism that you bring to the industry are vital assets, which help make substantial contributions to the social and economic well-being of this nation.
In real terms, the Graduating Class of 2017 is another substantial investment that adds to all those that have passed through this institution’s halls and corridors before. You are this nation’s number one resource!
The Gaston Browne administration, in which I humbly have the privilege to serve the people, is steadfastly committed to attracting investments at both the input and output ends.
To date, we have attracted well over US $3 billion dollars of new tourism investment. Thousands are directly and indirectly employed in the industry, and job creation and entrepreneurial opportunities are sure to increase in the coming Winter season.
Furthermore, over the next few years, it is expected than hundreds more of our nation’s people would be working in the industry as Antigua & Barbuda continues to welcome large numbers of new arrivals by both air and sea.
The concept of transforming Antigua & Barbuda into an ‘Economic Powerhouse’ is more than an ideal. It is a reality that is evolving under this administration, and with your diligence to add substance and flavour to this nation’s tourism product.
Again, I commend you the 2017 graduates for your outstanding efforts and the perseverance that you brought to your training and development at the ABHTI.
Already in 2017, the many plans and objectives that have been discussed and created in the Ministry of Tourism have met with exciting results. Yet, we refuse to rest on our laurels. The prospects for tourism in Antigua & Barbuda are very encouraging. Indeed, I confess that I am emboldened by your graduation, and your readiness for entry into the dynamic world of the tourism sector this evening.
I strongly encourage the entire graduating class to shape and mould your niche in the industry. Be the best that you can be in your specific areas of expertise. And as your theme suggest “Your Best is Still Unwritten”
After speaking, hopefully not too long, I have one simple request of this 2017 graduating class. It is to: ‘Act as if what you do makes a difference. Because It does!’
Once you follow this inspirational rule, your personal development will continue to occur; and Antigua & Barbuda will reap the benefit of the skills and capacity that you have built. This will then ensure that you are a pivotal part of the vision in transforming our beloved Antigua and Barbuda into the economic powerhouse of the region.
In closing I would like to remind you that the key word in the name of your now Alma Mater is HOSPITALITY. This word aptly describes the business that we are all really involved in.
Theologian and author Letty Russell redefined the commonly held notion of hospitality as she challenged her readers to consider what it means to truly welcome the stranger. She said, and I quote “Hospitality is the practice of God’s welcome by reaching across differences to participate in God’s actions bringing justice and healing to our world in crisis.”
Congratulations to you the ABHTI Graduating Class of 2017 and best wishes as you embark upon a career in practicing true hospitality with the exciting future that awaits you in Tourism!
Thank you very much!