The Giant’s Causeway welcomed a million visitors in a year for the first-time last year.
It was also named the most ‘Instagrammed’ location on the island of Ireland, showing the potential that social media can have over tourism.
Social media has become a great resource in attracting visitors to tourist sites, but there can be issues.
People who run the site don’t necessarily have control over how images are presented on social media. There is a risk that people can end up being disappointed if they arrive at a tourist attraction and find it is a little different to how it seemed on their favourite Instagram influencer’s account.
Jennifer Michael is the Senior Marketing and Communications Officer at the Giant’s Causeway.
She told the Irish Independent: “We have visitors who fly into Dublin, drive up and really just want a selfie on the stones and then they want to leave.
“I’ve experienced visitors showing me a picture of someone posing on their phone and asking me: ‘Where is that stone?’
“Instagram certainly has a part to play in how we can accurately represent the visitor experience.
“We have a responsibility to represent what the site is genuinely like, in an effort to manage visitors’ expectations.
“And yes, if you come early in the morning or late in the day, you can have space to enjoy the stones, but if you come in the middle of the day in the summer months, there will be a lot of people around you.
“The trouble is, if you see a gorgeous photo on Insta of one person standing on the Causeway, the reality is, if you come in July, you are not going to have that experience. We try to encourage journalists, bloggers and social media influencers to show that it’s a very busy site.
“This year, we launched a sustainability study to examine the physical capacity, but also the ecological, socio-cultural and the experiential.”
The Cliffs of Moher is another of Ireland’s most famous natural tourist attractions. They were once shortlisted as one of the ‘New Seven Wonders of Nature’ in Natural Geographic.
Maura Fay, the Marketing manager for the Cliffs says that they have actively worked to make a visit ‘more of an experience.
She said: “People can now go off, walk in either direction and get away from the crowds. There was a huge amount of work done creating an 18km walk from Doolin to Liscannor along the cliffs.
“You hear Instagram and bucket list a lot. And that’s natural. The numbers are becoming really large now. It’s now one of the most famous places in the world. Of course, people want to visit.
“Part of our remit is to encourage people to stay in Clare and there’s definitely a romanticism to the Wild Atlantic Way people want to tap into.”
Elsewhere in Ireland, Skellig Michael received a considerable boost in tourism thanks to a more traditional medium.
The ancient island was featured in the Star Wars movie The Force Awakens and there has been a spike in tourism.
Frank Shalvey, Principal Officer National Monuments, OPW said: “I don’t feel under pressure from tourism people with the Skellig.
“Although in terms of popular culture, the popularity spike was about Star Wars and it has increased demand. There are more people who would like to go. But we haven’t increased the capacity, nor will we.”