INVERNESS and Loch Ness are joining forces to create the UK's first tourism-based business improvement district (BID).

BIDs have already been set up in locations including Largs, Alloa and Oban, Argyll, in an effort to regenerate town centres. The proposal for Inverness and Loch Ness will market them as a single destination in a bid to attract more business and leisure visitors and improve the visitor experience.

The Inverness and Loch Ness Tourism Business Improvement District plans to invest £1  million over the next five years.

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Tourism businesses, which will all be required to pay fees during the lifetime of the BID, endorsed the plans in a ballot yesterday.

Project manager Graeme Ambrose said: "We are delighted that tourism businesses have recognised the strength of Inverness and Loch Ness joining forces to create one of the UK's most iconic visitor destinations.

"Both are hugely strong tourist attractions in their own right, but marketed together they create a unique attraction for business and leisure visitors, one that combines the mystique and allure of Loch Ness with the vibrancy of Inverness."

Leader of The Highland Council, Councillor Drew Hendry, said: "This will create a more sustainable local tourism industry for our very special area."