With tourism booming in the Scottish Highlands, controversy has erupted over one of its most famous alleged inhabitants: the Loch Ness Monster.
The issue? How to properly market the creature to the throngs of inquiring tourists traveling to the area hoping to see the fabled “Nessie” swimming in the lake.
Two businessmen are squaring off in a war of words that has divided the local community in Drumnadrochit, Scotland, leading to the resignation of public officials involved in the matter.
According to The Scotsman, George Edwards, owner of Loch Ness Cruises, sent all 70 members of the Drumnadrochit Chamber of Commerce a letter in which he took umbrage with those who believe the Loch Ness Monster is a “myth.”
In particular, he singles out researcher Adrian Shine of the Loch Ness Centre in Drumnadrochit, claiming that his neutral, fact-based approach to the creature will have a negative impact on tourism in the area.
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"Just about every time that [Shine] appears in the media he talks about big fish and big waves," Edwards wrote in the letter. "I believe they are doing more harm than good in promoting Loch Ness tourism with their negative theories ... How many people come here to see the Loch Ness Big Fish or the Loch Ness Big Wave?
"In recent years we have seen a decline in tourism across Scotland and maybe it is time for Mr Shine to put up or shut up,” Edwards continued. “Mr Shine and his cronies have been making a nice living out of Loch Ness for the past 20-odd years and if they cannot see the logic in promoting Nessie then maybe it’s time they moved on, as they seem intent on destroying our industry. I am sure members would see the financial rewards if we were to buy them one way tickets back to where they came from and let Nessie breathe easy again.”
Shine, according to the Scotsman, says the real reason for the letter is that his business is more successful than Edwards’ competing business, and that Edwards himself does not believe in the Loch Ness Monster.
“He clearly doesn’t think that many other people believe in it, either,” Shine said. “The irony is that the serious investigations and presentations such as [those] at The Loch Ness Centre, afford a great deal more respect to over a thousand honest and sober eyewitnesses by explaining what they have truthfully reported in terms of some rather special features of Loch Ness.”
The spat has led to the resignation of Tony Harmsworth, former chairman of the Drumnadrochit Chamber of Commerce, who stepped down as editor of its website after he was told by the Committee to take down an article he had written that criticized Edwards. Loch Ness Centre manager Debbie McGregor has also been caught in the cross fire, resigning from the Chamber in protest of the letter.
There's no doubt that tourism in Scotland has taken a hit. The BBC points to a survey by the Office for National Statistics that shows a 5 percent decline in overseas visitors for the 2012. As Scotland is affected by the economic downturn, the revenue generated from tourist attractions, such as the Loch Ness Monster, is as important than ever.