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Scotch distilleries hail record tourist numbers

Scotch whisky distilleries welcomed a record number of visitors in 2015, when the industry’s tourism figures grew 7%.

Collectively, Scotch whisky distilleries now welcome as many tourists as St Paul’s Cathedral

According to new data from trade body the Scotch Whisky Association, distillery visits hit 1.6 million between 2014 and 2015.

Since 2010 distillery visits have grown 20%, meaning that collectively they now rank alongside the UK’s tourism hotspots such as Edinburgh Castle and St Paul’s Cathedral in terms of tourist numbers.

Around half of Scotland’s 118 whisky distilleries are open to the public, while a number of Scotch producers have invested significantly in expanding and improving their visitor facilities in recent years.

“Scotch whisky distilleries offer high-quality and unique opportunities to visit the homes of some of Scotland’s most famous brands,” said Julie Hesketh-Laird, SWA deputy chief executive.

“It is testament to Scotch whisky companies that visits have increased at a time when overall Scottish visitor numbers fell. This brings important benefits to the wider rural economy, as distillery visitors will also then be staying at the local B&B, visiting a local pub or café, or buying souvenirs of their stay in Scotland.”

A new survey by the SWA also revealed that tourists spend an average of £25.00 on distillery visits, with a total of £50m spent in 2015, up from £27m in 2010.

Last year, the largest number of distillery tourists hailed from Scotland and other parts of the UK, Germany, the US and France – reflecting some of the world’s largest markets for Scotch whisky.

While total Scotch whisky exports continue to decline, there are “signs of recovery”for the sector, the SWA confirmed earlier this year.

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