Belfast Telegraph

High-profile US visitors will boost tourism industry

By Liam Clarke

It is still hard to credit that the leaders of a little place like Northern Ireland continues to rate photo-opportunities with the US president.

We are still the land of the free's prize pig in the conflict-resolution stakes. We are an unequivocal peacemaking success.

So, with more than 36m Americans identifying themselves as Irish and another 3.5m as Scots-Irish (a combined total of about 13% of the US population), that is worth celebrating in presidential election year.

Barack Obama may even come here and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has been invited by Owen Paterson, is a pretty safe bet.

Clinton is, one of Paterson's entourage texted me from Washington, "very focused on economy and shared future".

This is the year of the Titanic centenary and the Irish Open at Royal Portrush; next year is Derry's City of Culture. High-profile US visits can supercharge the whole process of securing tourism and investment.

It is worth giving the Americans what they want to tap this well of goodwill - especially when their requirements dovetail so neatly with our own interests. Cutting to the chase, that means easing Sunday trading and licensing hours for the tourists.

The investors will be more impressed if we make an announcement on corporation tax this summer in time for a Clinton or Obama visit.

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