On Saturday I joined a ‘Party on the Pier' on Arundel's Town Quay. 

The event was one of many across the country in celebration of Britain's seaside piers, harbours and jetties, marking the start of the fifth annual British Tourism Week (12-20 March).

Arundel was taking part - the only inland town to do so - because it's a great tourist attraction.  In fact, it was once a port.  It was possible to travel from Portsmouth to London by river and canal!

I was delighted to meet the volunteer crew of the RNLI Littlehampton lifeboat who had sailed up the River Arun for the occasion.

Tourism brings huge benefits to West Sussex and to the to country as a whole.

British Tourism Week coincides with the launch of the Government's new strategy to build up tourism, making it more productive, competitive and profitable than ever before.

Tourism is already one of our six biggest industries and our third-largest export earner.  It accounts for almost £90bn spent in the UK each year, sustains over 200,000 businesses and provides nearly 5 per cent of the nation's jobs.  

In Sussex alone our attractions bring an estimated 50 million visitors every year to spend £3 billion in the county and support nearly 60,000 jobs.

The next few years offer an unprecedented series of opportunities for our tourism industry to exploit.

Starting with the Royal Wedding next month there will be a raft of major international events, including the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

We are so lucky in West Sussex to have top-class tourist attractions like Arundel Castle, Goodwood, Petworth and Parham as well as natural treasures like the South Downs and our award-winning coastline. 

Local arts festivals are flourishing, not just Chichester's but also - in my constituency alone - Arundel, Petworth and Hurstpierpoint.  And we're starting to see a focus on local produce, too, with popular food festivals.

West Sussex is a wonderful county with so much to offer visitors.  So what more could we do to attract people?  I'd like to hear your ideas.  In the words of the song, "yea Sussex by the Sea"!

Christopher N Howarth