Big spending Americans helped boost tourism income in Northern Ireland by nearly 25% between January and June this year, it has emerged.
With their visitor numbers up by one fifth on the same time last year, America and Canada made a 57% contribution to the overall increased expenditure of £165m, according to statistics from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI).
Over the whole of last year overseas visitors spent £232m.
While the latest figures reveal an 11% rise in all overseas visitor numbers, with European holidaymakers up one third and those from Great Britain by 7%, visits from other parts of the globe were down 8%.
Michael Williamson, a hospitality consultant at business advisors ASM Horwath, welcomed the overall rise, but added: "It is important to the wider industry that we have a strong mix of visitors from different countries and visiting for different reasons.
"This can help distribute tourism benefits spatially and also help even out seasonal demand patterns."
Major efforts have been put into promoting Northern Ireland in 2012, due to the potential of the Titanic centenary and new Causeway visitors' centre for attracting visitors.
Tourism minister Arlene Foster said: "These are encouraging figures particularly as Northern Ireland prepares to launch a host of exciting events to celebrate NI2012."
North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said the hefty contribution of US tourists vindicated the intervention of the UK Treasury in the debate over air passenger duty, which helped secured Continental Airlines' commitment to its transatlantic route.
"The North American market is extremely important to Northern Ireland and that's why keeping the direct route was crucial."
A spokesman for DETI said: "Departmental discussions are ongoing with a view to publishing the Tourism Strategy 2020 alongside the Programme for Government and Economic Strategy."
However one operator in the industry believes the figures painted an overly-optimistic picture and do not reflect the reality of running a tourism business.
DETI's figures also revealed that home visitors enjoyed 758,000 overnight trips, spending a total of £46m, and 3m leisure day trips.