Posted by: Loren Coleman on December 23rd, 2007
Why don’t travel companies send cryptozoology authors and bloggers in pursuit of cryptids and accomodations at Loch Ness, among the Himalayas, in the Cameroons, along the Amazon, or near the veldt of South Africa, instead of travel writers? It totally amazes me that travel promotion organizations get it so wrong, so often.
Case in point, there was a remarkably good initial idea from some thoughtful people at Visit Britain and Visit Scotland with the new movie The Water Horse coming out: Send some travel writers to Scotland.
An example from yesterday is what they got from the computer of Sarah Murdoch, a travel writer at Canada’s Weekend Post:
Och, Nessie, what hae ye wrought? Come instead for the unparalleled vistas and history
There are many excellent reasons for visiting the Scottish Highlands, but the Loch Ness monster isn’t one of them. The likelihood of its existence is somewhere between slim and nil, it doesn’t have a particularly interesting folkloric tradition and the planet offers confirmed sightings of many more remarkable creatures.
But the main disincentive is the hokey tourism that has materialized in Nessie’s wake: cheap souvenirs depicting the monster on T-shirts, tea towels, stuffed animals, ceramic figurines and the like. The lake, deep and old, draws a million visitors a year, who spend roughly $12-million on Nessie-related memorabilia, though numbers are dwindling and sightings of the monster have plummeted in recent years, a worrisome trend given the ubiquity of cellphone cameras.
If you are a tourist board, Scotland’s most famous, if reclusive, inhabitant is an irresistible talking point, especially with the opening of The Water Horse on Christmas Day, a family film that melds ancient myths about the Each Uisge, the mystical water horses said to inhabit the lochs of the Highlands, with stories of the plesiosaur-like creature that lives in the murky depths of Loch Ness. Which is why Visit Britain and Visit Scotland played host to three Canadian and three American journalists on an eight-day tour of the Highlands this year.
I’ll stop there. You can read the rest here. It becomes a regular travel critique of Scotland, in which the writer has totally missed the magic of the waters of Loch Ness.
Okay, Ms. Murdoch got me to write about Scotland, but as is obvious lately, I was going to write about this movie anyway. I really see articles such as hers harmful to the lochside travel folks, and people may miss out on how alive the Loch Ness quest remains.
The reason I have to write about Ms. Murdoch’s words, of course, is because she is so very incorrect, from the start of her piece.
To say that the Loch Ness Monsters or cryptids do not “have a particularly interesting folkloric tradition” may be one of the stupidest things I’ve read this month. The Highland Gaelic traditions of Water-Kelpies and, indeed, the long and intriguing lore of Waterhorses form a strong and continuous line down to those of Nessies. Where was Ms. Murdoch when she should have been reading a bit about Water-Bulls, Tarbh’usige, and St. Columba at the River Ness in the 5th century?
“Dwindling” sightings and interest? Surely, Ms. Murdoch was not talking about the summer of 2007, when Gordon Holmes’ Loch Ness “what-is-it” video stole the spotlight of the international stage for days, if not weeks. From YouTube to CNN News, the discussion was of the Loch Ness Monsters, when one might have predicted Bigfoot would be the northern hemisphere’s summer topic. Did Ms. Murdoch miss that?
As to “hokey tourism,” I must ask, who does she think footed the bill for her expense-paid tourist junket? Souvenirs come in all varieties, of course, from the cheap to the novel to the museum quality. I have seen all kinds from Loch Ness, and Ms. Murdoch’s critique is hostile, unkind, and mostly unfounded.
As I once wrote, Loch Ness is the epicenter of cryptozoology, and it is too bad that this Canadian writer does not understand this. With cryptotourism being a major industry, crypto-friendly travelers need to be taken seriously.
Ms. Murdoch’s article was not the travel industry’s finest hour.
So, travel companies, how about next time you want to promote a lake monster or Yeti movie, why not send me or some other informed cryptozoological writer? We can write about nice vistas, good hotels, and also put it into context the wonder of the cryptids.
Meet the challenge, and do cryptotourism a favor.