LISTEN: Study to examine impact of rising visitor numbers on Giant's Causeway

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By Rebecca Black, Press Association

A study is due to assess the impact of more than a million visitors on one of Northern Ireland's natural wonders.

The National Trust has announced a sustainability study to understand the impact on and opportunities for the local community of increased visitor numbers to the Giant's Causeway and nearby rope bridge Carrick-a-Rede.

Last year there were more than 1.5 million visitors to both attractions.

Max Byrant, the general manager on the North Coast says they're hoping to involve local people with the project:

Heather McLachlan, regional director of the National Trust in Northern Ireland, said the growth of tourism in the area means the number is expected to climb further.

"It is only by deepening our understanding of our sites, how and why people interact with them, that we as a conservation charity can ensure that they are well cared for, for generations to come," she said.

"We are really excited about launching this study. As far as we are aware, it is the first time a World Heritage Site has undertaken a project of this scale which will focus on examining physical spaces, the environment, how visitors feel about their visits to these places and how we can work as good neighbours.

"The difference in what has gone before is that we are examining all of these factors at one time and collating the data, sharing it with the local community and asking them to actively participate in creating a sustainable future for the site."

The study will have four major focuses: how people use the sites, why they are visiting, the environmental impacts of visitors, and how the tourism can benefit local communities.

The study is expected to take place over the next 12-18 months.

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