Prime Minister the Hon. Gaston Browne has held a meeting with Dominique de Villepin, the former prime minister of France on the afternoon of Wednesday.
The meeting was held outside of his engagement in France with Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of UNESCO.
Prime Minister Browne and former prime minister de Villepin engaged in wide-ranging discussions that focussed largely on ways to develop and promote niche tourism sectors and how to achieve quality country-branding.
Mr de Villepin spoke of his extensive experience while prime minister of France and how different tourism models can bring widely divergent benefits to a country’s economy and society.
He encouraged PM Browne to have his Cabinet carefully examine tourism project proposals to take advantage of developing niche sectors in the market.
Mr de Villepin spoke extensively of the benefits of gastronomic tourism as an example of developing niche market, and he cited several examples of countries that have begun to move in that direction, indicating that he had worked closely with several of these countries to enter the market.
Expanding on his thesis, Mr de Villepin emphasized that gastronomic tourism was part of the high-end tourism market that was known to bring greater economic benefits to a country’s economy. He advocated for the recruitment of renowned or celebrity chefs who could utilize their skills and celebrity status to develop a unique gastronomic product that would be part of a country’s brand.
For his part, PM Browne provided Mr de Villepin with a summary of how the tourism industry in Antigua and Barbuda developed, especially since independence.
The current and former prime ministers then discussed practical ways of proceeding along the path of gastronomic tourism.
PM Browne undertook not only to put this tourism policy issue before his Cabinet but to mandate Ambassador Boris Latour (UNESCO) to engage in follow-up discussions that would lead to an action plan.
PM Browne, who was accompanied by Ambassador Colin Murdoch, Ambassador Boris Latour and Mr Timothee Bauer, DPR of Antigua and Barbuda’s UN mission in Geneva, left Paris on Thursday.