Tourists hunting beach selfies on perilous stretches of coast have helped fuel an almost doubling in call-outs to the RNLI over the festive period, it has been claimed.
The lifeboat charity revealed it is now 600% busier over the Christmas break compared to 40 years ago – with launches also up from 85 in 2014 to 155 in 2018.
Rescue crews have reported the rise appears to be linked to the increasing number of people visiting the coast for a break, who are unfamiliar with the dangers they can face.
While a common source of call-outs in the 1980s was embattled fishing vessels, lifeboats are now more likely to be deployed to tourists trapped by the tide, the charity said.
It is believed the rise of social media may have inspired visitors to seek out beauty spots to serve as the backdrop for a family Christmas picture they can post online.
However, although a large expanse of sand can be alluring as the setting for a festive selfie, the changing tide can leave areas of the beach impassable within minutes.
“We believe more and more people are staying in the country in the festive period; more and more people are going to the seaside and are not aware of the dangers of the sea,” a spokesman for the RNLI told the Telegraph.
“We had a lot of wind recently and people know that the wind is dangerous, but on a calm winter’s day people think it is nice and safe, they walk around the headland and, figures reveal, there are a lot of people who are not necessarily in the water but are on a cliff edge, walking, something like that.
“With camera phones these days, people go out and want a nice Christmas Day picture, they want a nice family selfie (but find themselves in trouble).
He added: “Even if you go back five years, cameras with selfies have since come in and then you’ve got all your Instagram and things for your best pictures – everyone has different means and motives for visiting the coast.”
The RNLI is expecting this Christmas to be just as hectic for its volunteer crews and has launched a fundraising drive to help preserve its future.
Phil Eaglen, a volunteer for the crew in Wells, said: “The RNLI has experienced a shortfall in funds, but we are rescuing more people than ever before.”