THE Loch Ness monster is to be at the centre of a £2 million tourism campaign to bring more visitors to the north of Scotland.
More than 200,000 overseas tourists travel to Loch Ness every year but tourism leaders want to see numbers grow by 50,000 over the next 12 months. An increase in numbers could be worth £3.5m to the area each year, VisitBritain said.
The campaign will see extensive advertising, digital marketing and business activity featuring Nessie until 2019.
American tourists remain the largest overseas visiting group to Scotland, with more than 500,000 spending time in the country in the first nine months of last year.
Inverness MP and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: “I’m delighted to provide £2m for a four-year campaign to promote one of the most beautiful parts of the UK.
“The loch is a jewel in the crown of the Highlands tourism industry, which creates and sustains many jobs in Scotland.
Around the world, Loch Ness is one of the best-known places in the UK, so it’s right we place it at the heart of our international tourism campaign.
“Visitors attracted by the mystery of Loch Ness will discover a part of the country with much more to offer.”
Figures released earlier this year showed a rise in tourism numbers in 2014, with events such as the Ryder Cup and the Commonwealth Games helping to attract hundreds of thousands of people.
Patricia Yates, director of strategy at VisitBritain, said: “Inverness already has strong appeal for inbound visitors and this extra funding, along with international profile generated around recent major tournaments across the country, can deliver growth for years to come.”
Supposed sightings of a Loch Ness monster, which are dismissed by most scientists, began in the 1930s.