Raising a glass to whisky tourism

Scotch Whisky Association’s Karen Betts raises a glass to tourism boost.
Scotch Whisky Association’s Karen Betts raises a glass to tourism boost.

SCOTCH whisky distilleries welcomed a record number of tourists through their doors last year, according to the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), which said distilleries collectively achieved 1.7 million visits in 2016 – up 8% on the previous year.

The SWA’s latest annual survey found visits to Scotch distilleries have increased by around a quarter since 2010 – and more than half of Scotland’s 123 Scotch whisky distilleries are now open to the public.

Visitors frequenting distilleries are also spending more, said the SWA, which found that a total of £53 million was spent by whisky tourists in 2016; average spend per person is said to have increased by 13% from £27 to £31.

The SWA claims that many distilleries are attributing the rise in visits, at least in part, to Brexit and the subsequent weakening of the pound against other currencies.

Distilleries have reported that the largest proportion of visitors came from Germany, other parts of Scotland, as well as the rest of the UK, America and France. Distilleries are also said to be proving popular with whisky enthusiasts from Sweden and Norway.

Karen Betts, the SWA’s chief executive, welcomed the figures. She said: “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.”

Tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop said the figures “are certainly good news, showing the esteem with which Scotch whisky is held around the world”.