Race gives us brilliant chance to shine on big stage
Being selected as the start venue for the world's second-biggest cycling race has already earned Northern Ireland enormous international publicity and prestige.
But when this truly massive event takes place in May, the Giro d'Italia will generate more than £10m worth of added media coverage across the globe, enhancing Northern Ireland's image and reputation even further.
The huge international audience for the Giro d'Italia means approximately 775m people in 174 countries will view it on TV – the biggest global outreach we will have ever achieved.
The watching world will be looking in on a transformed tourism landscape and a confident host region with a reputation for staging events on a world-class scale. Not only will the Giro d'Italia give local people the chance to witness a great sporting spectacle up close, the race is also expected to attract 140,000 visitors, a third of these from out-of-state.
As with the World Police and Fire Games and other big events, I have no doubt the people of Northern Ireland will get behind the Giro to create a celebratory atmosphere matching the best Grand Tour traditions.
That we are staging the 'Big Start' of one of the world's most prestigious cycling events is due to the legacy of 'ni 2012', including the major events of 2013 and the unprecedented tourism success Northern Ireland has achieved in the last two years.
We have proven that not only can we host major events, we can host them on a scale that makes the watching world take a second look.
Our tourism industry must work together and build upon the real momentum that now exists.
By being determined, creative and focused on further developing our tourism product, we can continue to build Northern Ireland's profile on the world stage as a must-see destination for visitors.
So let's get into gear and make the Northern Ireland Giro d'Italia 'Big Start' the biggest and best yet.