On Air Now
29 January 2015, 05:00
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 £3.5 million 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 #2 million 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.
"With local businesses now working to improve the destination, it is right that VisitBritain step in to help make more of this iconic destination.
"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: "Inbound tourism is one of Scotland's most successful export industries, generating jobs and growth across the country.
"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.''
VisitBritain said it will work closely with other tourism bodies such as VisitScotland and the Uniqueness Tourism Business Improvement District on the Loch Ness project, which is part of a wider UK campaign.