The lure of the Loch Ness Monster has been attracting travellers to the Scottish Highlands since the 1930s, after the movie King Kong got the world a bit too obsessed with unnaturally large creatures. The legend of the Monster has actually been around since the 6th Century though, when an Irish monk, named Saint Columba, witnessed locals burying a man who was said to have been killed by a water beast.
The Monster, known as Nessie, is an aquatic animal which allegedly lives in the Scottish Highlands’ Loch Ness. Nessie is described as being very large, with a long neck, flippers and humps along her back. It is theorised that she is a descendant of the prehistoric plesiosaur. The monster gained worldwide notoriety in 1933 after a reputed sighting by George Spicer who claimed that he and his wife saw “a most extraordinary form of animal” which was 4ft high and 25ft long crossing a road near the loch.
The monster is “a marketing man’s dream”, claims the head of the company Loch Ness Marketing, Willie Cameron. He states that Nessie “is here 365 days a year. It doesn’t need feeding or cleaning.”
And the locals of Loch Ness know just how to maximise the revenue from tourists who come to grab a glimpse of the monster. Many local business leaders, government officials and university professors collaborate to exploit the bounties of the mysterious monster. The chief executive of the Inverness and Loch Ness Tourism board, Graeme Ambrose, proclaimed that: “If we want a sustainable tourism industry we can’t just have tourists … taking the photograph and moving on … To get people to stay longer in the area you have to have more.” Monster Marketing, a seminar run by the University of the Highlands and Islands, encourages hotels, cafes, tour companies and adventure activity providers to collaborate to keep tourists lingering around longer than the obligatory loch pose.
And it all seems to be paying off. An article by Management Today suggests that Nessie pulls in 1 million tourists a year and anywhere between £25 million to £30 million per year for the local economy (a “local expert” even suggests the figure could be as high as £130 million per year).
Unfortunately, most evidence supporting the existence of Nessie is anecdotal, along with some disputed, blurry, photos and sonar readings. Consequently, the scientific community regards the Loch Ness Monster as a myth, a folklore with no biological basis, and explain sightings as hoaxes or the misidentification of mundane objects.
An investigation by an academic at the University of St Andrews adds further weight to the hoax argument. The investigation studied 1000 reports of Loch Ness Monster sightings and determined that a significant number of them came from cafe and hotel owners. Monster tourism is an attractive prospect for local businesses near Loch Ness, and it seems these businesses have been capitalising on it.
Despite the rational evidence going against the Loch Ness Monster, we still believe that, somewhere deep down in those murky waters, Nessie is lurking.