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The UK national tourism agency, VisitBritain, has just launched a £2 million tourism campaign which is intended to attract more visitors to the north of Scotland. This is already a popular tourist trap, particularly due to its outstanding natural scenery and beauty, but VisitBritain hopes to entice more travellers by placing an emphasis on the ancient culture of the region.

Distinctive Culture

This is an area with a particularly unique and distinctive culture, given that the new campaign will focus on the Loch Ness monster. This iconic (and almost certainly mythical!) symbol of Scotland has been attracting people to the picturesque regions of the Scottish Highlands for decades. So it seems like a logical and smart move for VisitBritain to promote this oft-photographed behemoth for its latest marketing campaign.

In fact, over 200,000 overseas tourists already travel to Loch Ness every year, but VisitBritain perceives that this number could grow by 25 percent over the next 12 months on the basis of an effective campaign. It is calculated that this could be worth £3.5 million to the area on an annual basis. The new campaign will see VisitBritain produce extensive advertising, digital marketing and business activity over the next five years.

Before contemplating this approach, it is likely that the DMO carefully considered the demographics which already visit the Scottish Highlands. By far the most prominent group of visitors to the region are US tourists, with in excess of half a million Americans visiting the northern British nation on a yearly basis. VisitBritain is clearly banking on the idea that American visitors are drawn to the island in order to experience something historic.

Scottish Tourism Boost

Scotland has in fact already had a boost in tourism during 2015, as prominent sporting events such as the Ryder Cup and the Commonwealth Games have helped to attract hundreds of thousands of people to the area. It could also be argued that the tennis player Andy Murray’s Wimbledon triumph has also contributed to the polishing of the image of Scotland, and the nation now appears a happening and hip place, but one still steeped in tradition and heritage.

Recent analysis suggests that for the first time in seven years, over one-million international tourists visited Scotland during the third-quarter of 2014. This figure was 8 percent higher than during the same period in 2013. These visitors also spent a new Q3 record of £846 million during their stay, which represented a 12 percent increase on the previous year. This suggests that Scotland is attracting a more affluent class of tourist to the country, as well as larger numbers.

Supposed sightings of the Loch Ness monster began in the 1930s, so this notion isn't exactly an ancient tradition, but it is nonetheless one that has become steeped in the region's mythology and local history. But it is a tradition that remains in the news to this day.

Only weeks ago, world media reported on the experience of a Swedish man, Bjarne Sjöstrand, 52, who spied an ominous thin object in the waters of Loch Ness on Google Earth from his computer in Stockholm. This excellent spot earned him the prize for the best Loch Ness Monster sighting of 2014; a competition run by bookmaker William Hill.

The contest was judged by the Inverness Courier, which attracted 92,000 votes via its website for this competition. This indicates that people still enjoy participating in what they consider a fun and enjoyable aspect of Scottish tradition and heritage. And also that the new generation of Internet technology can be utilised in an entertaining way to enable people to connect with cultural artefacts.

Marketing Takeaways

While other destinations may not have something as distinctive within their make up as a family of monsters(!), the campaign from VisitBritain does underline some key points about destination marketing. Instead of merely following existing trends, it is always important to emphasise the specific qualities of a location, even if these don't seem particularly glamorous. Ultimately, it is pointless for any destination to attempt to compete with other locations on their home turf, and more value can be derived from the campaign which is truly distinctive, original and light-hearted.

Another recent example which the Digital Tourism Think Tank reported on was the tiny Swiss town of Obermutten, which attracted worldwide media attention due to its unusual approach of promoting its Facebook page. Obermutten residents have pinned photographs of all those who liked the town's front page on Facebook to a noticeboard in the centre of the hamlets, ultimately attracting tens of thousands of people to its Facebook account.

Engaging people in a unique, fun and quaint fashion can reap rich rewards, even for rather unfashionable tourist locations.

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