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Diageo announces ‘biggest single investment’ in Scotch tourism

Diageo will spend £150 million (US$215m) on an extensive upgrade of its Scotch whisky visitor centres, as well as a new Johnnie Walker experience in Edinburgh.

An artist’s impression of the planned Johnnie Walker attraction in Edinburgh

The funds – said to represent the biggest single investment in Scotch whisky’s tourism industry – will be phased over three years.

Diageo selected Edinburgh as the location for the new ‘state-of-the-art’ Johnnie Walker experience due to its strong growth in tourism.

It will be ‘directly linked’ to four distilleries representing the ‘four corners of Scotland’ and Scotch whisky’s regional flavour profiles: Glenkinchie (Lowlands), Cardhu (Speyside), Caol Ila (Island), and Clynelish (Highlands). The connection will create a ‘Johnnie Walker tour of Scotland’ to encourage tourists to travel to Edinburgh and other rural Scottish locations.

The Edinburgh building will become a new ‘hub’ for Diageo’s business in Scotland and will allow it to ‘mentor Scotland’s next generation of entrepreneurs and exporters’.

Ivan Menezes, CEO of Diageo, said: “Scotch is at the heart of Diageo, and this new investment reinforces our on-going commitment to growing our Scotch whisky brands and supporting Scotland’s tourism industry.

“For decades to come our distilleries will play a big role in attracting more international visitors to Scotland. I am also delighted we will be able to bring our knowledge and expertise to help the next generation, through mentor programmes and skills training.”

Diageo will also use the £150m investment to upgrade its existing network of 12 distillery visitor centres in Scotland. In addition to Glenkinchie, Cardhu, Caol Ila, and Clynelish, this includes: Lagavulin, Talisker, Glen Ord, Oban, Dalwhinnie, Blair Athol, Cragganmore and Royal Lochnagar.

Growing investment

The investment has been pledged in addition to Diageo’s £35m project to bring Port Ellen and Brora back into production. Both distilleries will also feature visitor centres.

Over the past six years, Diageo has invested US$1bn in building its Scotch whisky infrastructure to boost international exports.

Cristina Diezhandino, Diageo’s global Scotch whisky director, said: “New generations of consumers around the world are falling in love with Scotch and they want to experience it in the place where it is made and meet the people who make it.

“This investment will ensure that the people we attract to Scotland from around the world go home as life-long ambassadors for Scotch and for Scotland.”

In 2017, Diageo’s Scotch whisky distilleries welcomed 440,260 visitors, an increase of 15.2% compared to 2016. The world’s largest Scotch whisky distiller operates 28 malt distilleries across Scotland, of which 12 have dedicated visitor centres.

The Scotch Whisky Association has predicted a strong year for whisky tourism in 2018, highlighting a 25% increase in visits to Scotch whisky distilleries since 2010.

The Scottish Government and its agencies – Scottish Enterprise and VisitScotland – recently launched the Scotland is Now campaign to promote Scotland as a leading business and tourism destination. Diageo will partner with the initiative to promote Scotch whisky tourism.

Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said: “This significant investment will not only help attract more tourists to Scotland, offering world class visitor experiences, but it also underlines the fundamental importance of the whisky sector to Scotland’s economy.

“Last week, I launched Scotland is Now, a new campaign that will put Scotland in the international spotlight and showcase the country’s world-leading assets, such as whisky, to a global audience. Today’s announcement highlights to the world that Scotland is a leading destination for tourists and business investors.”

Click on the video below to see more visuals of the planned Johnnie Walker attraction.

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