The First and Deputy First Ministers flew out to the US on St Patrick’s Day with the aim of charming tens of thousands of potential tourists across the Atlantic to Northern Ireland.
Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness are in Washington to meet President Barack Obama before they travel to Canada later in the week as part of the major ‘ni2012’ tourism drive.
The two leaders are hoping to cash in on the massive interest in North America in the Titanic centenary and our golfing success.
The ni2012 events include the opening of the signature Titanic Belfast building and the hosting of the Irish Open Golf Championship at Royal Portrush for the first time in more than 60 years.
Yesterday, they were meeting with the British Ambassador, Sir Peter Westmacott, which was followed by talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and congressman Peter King.
A promotional DVD about Northern Ireland entitled ‘Your Time, Our Place’ will be premiered on the trip. It showcases the region and the fixtures taking place under the ‘ni2012’ banner.
Mr Robinson described 2012 as a landmark year for Northern Ireland and said he relished the opportunity to promote a message of positivity.
He said: “With so many important fixtures on the calendar during 2012 we are keen to promote the province far and wide.
“Our message is one of confidence, optimism, economic regeneration and the readiness of Northern Ireland to compete internationally as a first rate location for investment and jobs.
“The addition of the packed programme offered by ni2012 adds to the excitement that both visitors and investors can expect when they arrive on our shores.”
Mr McGuinness also welcomed the opportunity to pitch for investment and tourism from such an important market and said that the Executive has put the creation of a vibrant economy at the very top of its priority list.
“Tourism is a central plank in our economic recovery and allied to the many exciting initiatives taking place this year and next we hope to increase visitor numbers to 4.2 million and tourist revenue to £676m by December 2014,” Mr McGuinness said.
“Our confidence has never been higher because there really never has been a better time to see the north. We can guarantee visitors a time to treasure.”
Today Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness will be hosting a tourism reception for 400 people followed by lunch and a St Patrick’s reception with President Obama. Then on Wednesday they will travel to Toronto to meet with representatives of the Canadian travel industry as well as key business and finance sector figures.