Uncle Sam 3, sea thugs 0

You could almost step outside and hear the cheering from across the land Sunday when word got out that U.S. Navy snipers had killed three Somali pirates holding an American ship captain hostage.

Soon after sailors aboard the USS Bainbridge saw some of the captors with their heads and shoulders exposed and Capt. Richard Philips in what appeared to be imminent danger, the captain of the Bainbridge gave the order to fire.

Crisis over.

Congrats to Capt. Phillips for his courage in putting his own life on the line to save his men. And congrats to the Navy SEALS for their moxie, their cool competence and, of course, their aim.

Good numbers

In tough times

In a tight economy, the virtue of “doing more with less” invariably becomes one of the most familiar, and eventually grating, clichés. Especially if you’re the one being given less and told to do more. But recent statistics indicate the Columbus tourism industry has been taking the phrase literally.

Despite an economic crunch that has cost jobs and thinned out vacation, travel and recreation budgets, Columbus set a record for visitors in fiscal 2007-2008, topping the million mark for the first time ever and even improving in visitor spending, maybe an even tougher test in these times.

The area managed to attract those guests with about 200 fewer people working in the local hospitality industry than in the year before and a 15 percent cut in the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau budget, over a time span that includes the highest spikes in gasoline prices.

While there is no upside to a recession, being aware of the circumstances it creates can be profitable. Peter Bowden, longtime head of the CVB, said the organization saw the soaring fuel costs and sagging economy as an opportunity to focus on what he called the “drive market,” the less expensive recreation trips within a 20-county area.

The result was the record number of visitors and an increase in visitor spending from $371 million to $378 million. Those are really good numbers in bad times.

What is really encouraging is that those numbers don’t include the boost we should get when the new National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center really starts making its impact felt on tourism, spending, hotel and restaurant business and other ancillary benefits.

Efficiency and ingenuity here seem to have helped boost a segment of the economy that is suffering big time elsewhere. Even if there’s less money to do it with, Columbus and the Valley need to keep getting the word out that we have a lot to offer.

— Dusty Nix, for the editorial board