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Irish whiskey tourism sees 425% hike in 2022

Whiskey tourism in Ireland attracted 677,000 visitors in 2022, boosted by ‘staycations’ and tourism from North America.

Irish whiskey distillery
Irish whiskey tourist numbers grew by 54% in the four years leading to 2019

According to research by the Irish Whiskey Association (IWA), 2022 saw a 425% increase in visitors to Ireland’s whiskey distilleries, but the figures are still far from the peak of 1.02 million seen in 2019.

James Doherty, chairperson of the IWA, said: “2022 represented a year of recovery following two years of closures and restrictions, due to Covid-19.

“While 2021 saw encouraging support from domestic visitors and staycationers, 2022 saw a strong rebound in the number of visitors from international markets, particularly North America, Germany and Great Britain.”

Visitors from North America accounted for 34% of whiskey tourists in 2022, while Germany and Great Britain accounted for 9.5% and 9% respectively.

The survey found that 15% of whiskey tourism came from nationals ‘staycationing’ in Ireland.

“While overall numbers are still down on the pre-Covid peak, we are targeting full recovery in 2023,” Doherty continued. “Irish whiskey tourism makes a substantial economic contribution to local communities around Ireland, particularly in rural areas.

“Based on previous assessments conducted in conjunction with Fáilte Ireland, we assess that tourists spent more than €40 million (US$43.48m) in local communities linked to visits to distilleries.”

The survey indicated that more than 200,000 bottles of Irish whiskey were purchased from distillery gift shops in 2022. The IWA said this highlights the importance of the channel for the sale of premium Irish whiskey to visitors and tourists.

Doherty added: “The IWA is supporting the growth of Irish whiskey tourism through our Irish Whiskey 360° tourism initiative and we wish to acknowledge the great support from Tourism Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Northern Ireland, as well as the support of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, in funding effort to promote distilleries in rural communities.”

Irish Whiskey 360° is an industry-led platform to promote Irish whiskey tourism, featuring distilleries and brand homes with visitor experiences.

The website contains details and maps on distilleries and regions to visit.

Doherty concluded: “It is expected that at least 26 Irish whiskey distilleries will be open to visitors in 2023, directly employing over 400 people.”

Last year we explored how spirits tourism establishes and nurtures brand loyalty.

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