The Barbados tourist board has invited Captain Tom Moore and a further 20 NHS workers and their guests to enjoy free travel to the island once restrictions are lifted.

Kerrie Symmonds, minister of tourism and international transport, said he had been touched by the 99-year-old’s efforts and wanted to “personally welcome him” to the island, despite expecting the re-emergence of tourism to the island to be “subdued” and that significant recovery would not be expected until winter.

Symmonds said: “When your Captain Tom embarked on his mission to try to raise the conscience of the British community and the rest of the world – because he impacted all of us – we were very moved. A World War Two vet who decides he is going to try to raise funds in the manner that he did – it was thinking out of the box, it was exciting, it was innovative, and I personally was impressed. It was an excellent effort.

“We’re inspired not only by Captain Tom but by the work that the UK health workers have done, and that has led us to want to participate in our own small way.

“The first thing we want to do is make an offer to Captain Tom and his family of three tickets to the island. I would hope that as soon as it is safe to travel again and everything is returned to normal, I can personally welcome him to the shores of Barbados.”

He added: “We want to invite 20 healthcare workers to come to the island with a significant other, and we extend that as an offer to them. Press on, knowing Barbados is with you.”

NHS staff can be nominated by friends and family via BarbadosCares.com, with entries being judged by a panel to decide the 20 ‘most inspirational stories’.

Symmonds revealed that a Small Hotels Investment Fund has been created by the government to channel $20 million of funding to smaller properties in danger of closure.

He said: “That is intended to make sure we put our smaller hotels – because those are the ones with the most slender profit margins, those are the ones which are quite frankly in danger of going under – in a position where they can do some refurbishment during this downtime.

“They can put themselves in a position where they can bounce back as being a little more competitive, more attractive than they were before Covid.”

Improvements include refurbishments and installing more accessible rooms across the island’s hotel stock.

A tourism recovery task force has also been established to help hospitality and tourism workers retrain, after a 25% jump in unemployment on the island in the past three weeks.

Last year, Barbados saw record visitor numbers from the UK, which rose 10.4% compared with the previous year, with average spending up 7.5% in the first six months of 2019.