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Giant's Causeway visitor numbers surpass Titanic Belfast

The Giant's Causeway is reaping the rewards of an investment in its visitor centre

The Giant's Causeway has overtaken Titanic Belfast to become the north's most popular tourist destination.

The north coast's world-famous basalt columns drew more than 851,000 visitors last year – an increase of eight per cent on 2014, according to Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva).

The Giant's Causeway's year-on-year growth in popularity has seen it overtake Titanic Belfast as the number one regional tourist destination. In the past two years an extra 300,000 people have made the trip to the Co Antrim coast to view the natural phenomenon which was once described as "not worth going to see".

Visitor numbers to Titanic Belfast slipped by four per cent on the previous year to 622,000, Alva said. The £77m flagship building on the site of what was once the Harland & Wolff shipyard opened in 2012 and welcomed 1.45 million people through its doors in the first two years ago.

Alva chief executive Bernard Donoghue said that despite the decrease in visitors, Titanic Belfast's figures remained impressive.

"Attractions like Titanic Belfast see enormous interest when they first open before visitor numbers inevitably drop off before plateauing," he said.

"I think they've done a very successful job in maintaining reasonably good numbers with the help of some travelling exhibitions."

Mr Donoghue said both Titanic Belfast and the Giant's Causeway had benefited from an overall increase in overseas visitors to Ireland.

"As far as people coming from overseas to Northern Ireland for the first time both these attractions are on the tick list," he said

"The Giant's Causeway is really reaping the rewards of investing in their visitors centre and almost the re-presentation of the causeway in recent years."

A National Trust spokesman said: "It is clear that the Giant's Causeway continue to be a key motivator for tourism visits to Northern Ireland.

"It is also encouraging to see other visitor attractions perform strongly and we look forward to working with our partners to build on this success in 2016."

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