Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: New air link is our runway to success

A successful Northern Ireland depends on its connections with the outside world.

It needs good air and sea links to send its exports abroad and to bring foreign tourists to these shores. So, while the deal has not yet been finalised, there is certainly excitement at the potential development of an air route to the oil rich Middle East. That would open up trade and tourism with Abu Dhabi and adjoining Gulf states and also provide a staging post for travel to the Far East and Australia.

Business leaders and politicians have built an impressive case for the development of the link, citing such advantages as lower air passenger duty, ease of travel and the need for only one visa compared to two if coming into Ireland through Dublin. Peter Robinson, Martin McGuinness and Arlene Foster have laid the groundwork during a recent visit to the United Arab Emirates and there is no doubt that the political progress they represent is a powerful marketing tool for the province.

So too are the list of attractions such as the new Titanic Belfast, the MAC arts centre, new Lyric Theatre and the success of our golfers, which has given the province an international profile. Tourism is one sector which can be ramped up relatively quickly even in these recessionary times, provided that visitors feel the province has an offering which is unique or more attractive than in other regions.

More international airlines could also be attracted here if the Executive presses ahead with its plans to reduce, or scrap, Air Passenger Duty. That would be a powerful incentive for new airlines to consider flying here and for passengers to get a good deal. Perhaps the most encouraging thing of all is the obvious determination of local politicians to take innovative steps to boost the economy. For far too long the province suffered from a 'can't do' attitude rather than a positive one.

Hopefully those days are long gone and that serious attempts to rebalance the economy gather pace.

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