Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

We're land of Open glory

It all seems to have crept up on us when we weren't looking.

It started with the Titanic, which for decades the authorities had been telling us was a beaten docket for Belfast, hauling in tourists by their hundreds of thousands and bringing positive global attention to the city. Then there was the Royal visit and Jubilee celebrations culminating in that handshake and the promise (again) of a genuinely bright future.

And then that too was followed up by the weekend's double whammy - the Land of Giants extravaganza, which brought 18,000 people to the docks - and of course the Irish Open at Portrush.

Stars, glamour, Her Majesty, spectacle, history. And all of it sending out the same message, over and over again. This place is back in business big time - and possibly for the first time ever.

I certainly can't think of any time in the history of Northern Ireland when there has been such a rush of swaggering, loud, exhilarating, unapologetic self-promotion. It's brilliant. And we need more of it. In fact, as a going concern, Northern Ireland needs 'days like those' every day of the week.

Let's hope those leading the tourist industry here can learn from the successes brought to us by sport and the arts over the last months. Even modest investment in promoting such creativity right now can generate billions for our economy. Something the authorities need to act on as we head into the City of Culture festivities next year.

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