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Warnings that Skellig Michael could lose World Heritage Site status over Star Wars promotions

There are warnings that Skellig Michael could lose its UNESCO World Heritage status due to its rebranding as a Star Wars site.

An Taisce is urging the Culture Minister to intervene and carry out a report on the impact filming has had.

There were over 16,000 thousand visitors to the site this year despite permits being capped at 11,100.

Ian Lumley from An Taisce explained why they have written to Josepha Madigan about the Star Wars promotions.

"It has brought about a rebranding and change of the image and perception of the site," he said.

"Every time the word Skellig is mentioned, just that branding of the Disney franchise is now inextricably entangled with it," Mr Lumley added.

"The spiritual, cultural and historical significance of the island, the basis on which it was designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site is being swamped by that commercial rebranding," he said.

Tourism Ireland saw a 3.7% growth of 330,000 additional overseas visitors for January-November 2017, meaning it is set to be a record year for Irish tourism.

The latest CSO figures confirm that Ireland welcomed almost 9.25m overseas visitors in the period.

Tourism Ireland CEO Niall Gibbons said Ireland has seen "exceptional results from North America", as well as welcome growth from Australia, Mainland Europe including Germany, France and Spain.

There have been two million visitors from North America so farthis year, up +16.6% on the same period last year.

“Increases in direct air access, plus our market diversification strategy, have been key factors," he said.

“The decline in visitor numbers from Britain continues to be a concern, down -5.2% for the January to November period.

"The fall in the value of sterling has made holidays and short breaks here more expensive for British visitors and has made Britain more affordable for visitors from many of our top markets," he added.

"In 2018, Tourism Ireland will continue to place a greater focus on our ‘culturally curious’ audience, who are less impacted by currency fluctuations," Mr Gibbons said

“Tourism Ireland has a number of campaigns under way right now, to kick-start our promotional effort for 2018.”

Digital Desk