Irish whiskey visitor numbers near one million

14th January, 2019 by Amy Hopkins

As Irish whiskey’s boom time continues, new data has revealed a surge in distillery visitor numbers last year.

Attractions such as Jameson Distillery Bow St are drawing in international visitors

According to trade body the Irish Whiskey Association (IWA), 923,000 people visited Ireland’s whiskey distilleries and brand homes in 2018 – a 13.4% increase on 2017. The figures are based on 13 Irish whiskey distilleries and brand homes located across the island of Ireland.

According to the IWA, the industry is “well on track” to reach its target of 1.9 million visitors by 2025, and will hit 1m “in the coming months”.

Overseas visitors accounted for 88% of the 2018 total, with the largest number coming from the US and Canada (40%), followed by the UK (14%), Germany (8%) and France (7%). Visitors from the island of Ireland accounted for 12% of the total.

Last year, Irish whiskey tourism supported 356 jobs, including seasonal positions.

“Just as Irish whiskey remains the fastest growing premium spirits category in the world, Irish whiskey distilleries are now among the fastest growing attractions in Irish tourism,” said William Lavelle, head of the IWA.

“Irish whiskey tourism is attracting international visitors, creating jobs and supporting local economies, both urban and rural, right across the island of Ireland.

“Tourists and Irish whiskey lovers alike are keen to know more about the backstory of the whiskey – where, how and by who it is made. They want to experience the heritage and vibrancy of our distilleries. The Irish whiskey industry has a great tourism offering, and it’s only going to grow as more distilleries open their doors to the public in 2019.”

This year, at least eight new Irish whiskey distillery visitor centres are set to open, including Boann Distillery in Drogheda, Dublin Liberties Distillery in Dublin, and Powerscourt Distillery in County Wicklow.

However, the IWA said the recent increase in hospitality VAT “poses challenges” for Irish whiskey tourism, while a “disorderly Brexit” could weaken the sterling and harm tourism in the UK and Northern Ireland.

The trade body also reiterated its criticism of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act, which it claims will “constrain opportunities” for the advertising of Irish whiskey distilleries as visitor attractions.

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