Editor's Viewpoint: We must capitalise on tourist magnets
There is no doubt that our politicians and tourism bodies are pulling out all the stops to cash in on Northern Ireland's burgeoning reputation as one of the hottest places to visit.
Having received glowing tributes in such respected publications as National Geographic's Traveller magazine and the Lonely Planet tour guide, there is a buzz about the province - to borrow a phrase from earlier promotions - that has been absent for far too long.
Well-known ex-pat celebrities helped spread the good news about the province in London last night when the latest roadshow extolling our virtues rolled into town. There was no shortage of marketable opportunities to discuss from the various Titanic-themed events this year including the opening of the new interactive visitor attraction, the opening concert for the Olympics, the Irish Open golf championship at Portrush and the events leading up to next year's celebrations in Londonderry as UK City of Culture.
These are powerful magnets in any tourist calendar and their value must be maximised in the coming months and years. London is an important marketplace as it, and the surrounding south of England, is the richest part of the UK with a huge holidaymaking population. Our tourist authorities' job is to convince as many of them as possible that there is an exciting destination virtually on their doorstep. While most eyes naturally turn to Europe for holidays, Northern Ireland provides something different.
The UK and Republic of Ireland are Northern Ireland's most important tourism markets and the areas from which we can most confidently expect to increase visitor numbers. In these times of austerity, tourism - particularly with the special events in the coming two years - is one industry with real growth potential. Our reputation has never been so good and our tourism offer has never been so diverse. We must ensure that we take full advantage of these favourable circumstances.