Scotland is a country that is blessed with vast tourism potential. It is one of our most important industries, worth £7.5b to our economy and employing 350,000 people. We have a great story to tell, from our wonderful scenery, to our compelling history, diverse culture, and friendly people - we have so much to offer the world.
Tourism is now one of the world's most competitive businesses. More than 200 countries are actively attempting to persuade people to visit and with the added pressures of a global market constricted by current economic uncertainty, it is clear we must all work harder than ever to ensure Scotland remains ahead of the game.
Of course, tourism is not immune from the pressures of the global economic situation, but speaking to many within the hospitality and catering industry - from the owner of a small B&B in Shetland, right through to the head of Scotland's national tourism agency - I have seen a real determination, a passion and a fantastic drive.
Our tourism people are a resilient bunch and they will not let the global economic difficulties distract them from showing the world all that our country has to offer.
Next month, the industry will come together for Scottish Tourism Week, and a fantastic range of events will allow industry professionals right across the country to look at new and innovative ways of encouraging tourists to visit our great country.
And this year is a truly special year. Our Homecoming celebrations will be a fantastic chance to attract many more visitors to Scotland throughout 2009. With more than 300 events taking place across the country, there will be something for everyone, giving Scotland the competitive edge.
Scotland is a country that is full of opportunity. The Scottish Government and the Scottish tourism industry are united in a joint effort to exploit that opportunity to the full. Together, we will ensure that Scotland continues to be one of the "must visit" countries in the world.
- Jim Mather is opening Scottish Hospitality Show ScotHot, which takes place at the SECC in Glasgow on 2-4 March. Register now at http://www.scothot.co.uk for free tickets.