Tourist coup puts us on course for prosperity
It is encouraging to learn that the number of overseas visitors to Northern Ireland increased last year, and this was the only rise in the United Kingdom outside London.
It should be stated, however, that the increase here was marginal. There were 357,000 overnight visitors from outside the UK in 2010, compared to 355,000 during the previous year.
However they spent £196m, which was a healthy £3m increase on the 2009 figure. More money is always welcome, but equally welcome is the fact that Northern Ireland is high on the list of visitor attractions.
The biting edge of the recession is reflected in the decrease in the numbers of domestic visitors, but this means also that more local people are spending their holidays in Northern Ireland.
The international image of the province is important, and despite some of the bad headlines during part of the holiday season, the overseas tourist figures have been holding up well.
French people made the most trips to the United Kingdom last year, followed by the Germans and the Americans. There was also a large number of visitors from the Irish Republic, and this underlines the point made by the Queen during her Irish visit when she emphasised the strong family ties between the two countries.
Tourism is one of the keys to future growth and prosperity, and Northern Ireland is well-placed to take advantage of this.
Our Major winners Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke have placed Northern Ireland on the world golfing map, and their historic victories have put their native province on course to attract many more golfers.
Next year the Titanic centenary will be widely commemorated, and the opening of the ambitious new Titanic Belfast project will attract many visitors.
This will also apply to Londonderry in the lead in to hosting the UK's City of Culture in 2013. Derry is literally in good shape and will flourish even more during this upcoming period.
So let's all celebrate the good news at the height of our current holiday season, and look forward to more in years to come.