Scotch distilleries report record visitor numbers

8th September, 2017 by Annie Hayes

Scotch whisky distilleries attracted a record-breaking 1.7 million visitors in 2016, up by almost 8% year-on-year, according to the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

Karen Betts, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive

In its latest annual survey, the SWA reports that footfall has increased by around a quarter since 2010, and is now equivalent to that of London attractions such as St Paul’s Cathedral and the Royal Albert Hall.

The largest proportion of visitors hail from Germany, France, the US, Scotland and other parts of the UK, followed by Sweden and Norway.

“Scotch whisky – Scotland’s most popular export – is known throughout the world,” said Karen Betts, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive. “It is produced right across Scotland, in some of our most beautiful landscapes and some of our remotest communities.

“Each distillery is distinctly of its place. Their histories, stories and modern-day craftsmanship fascinate locals and overseas visitors alike. It’s not surprising that more and more tourists are visiting Scotland’s distilleries to see how Scotch is made and to meet the people involved.”

More than half of the country’s 123 Scotch whisky distilleries are now open to the public, and whisky fans are now spending more per visit.

Visitors splurged almost £53 million in 2016, and the average spend per person increased by 13% to £31.

Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: “It’s wonderful to see that Scotch whisky distilleries enjoyed a record number of visits in 2016. It’s a testament to the hard work put in by these businesses to give visitors the best experience possible.

“Whisky is one of Scotland’s most valuable commodities with people from all over the world coming to our shores to experience an authentic Scottish dram.

“It remains as important as ever to the tourism industry with one in five visitors making a trip to a whisky distillery during their stay and even more visiting a bar, pub or restaurant to sample our renowned national drink.”

Many distilleries believe that Brexit has given tourism a boost in the short term, citing increased foreign visitor numbers due to the weak pound.

Distilleries are increasingly spending money on new bar areas, staff, and technology, partly as a result of the increased demand.

Tourism secretary, Fiona Hyslop, said: “These figures are certainly good news, showing the esteem with which Scotch whisky is held around the world and the value of the whisky industry to Scotland, beyond simply revenue generated by sales and exports.

“With further enhancements to the visitor experience at distilleries around Scotland, the Scotch whisky industry can continue to generate interest among domestic and international audiences. I am confident that as we see new whisky markets being opened up, we will also see a further increase in visitors, strengthening local economies in the process.”

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