Scotch whisky tourism enjoys best year ever

Scotland’s whisky tourism industry enjoyed its best year ever in 2017 as more than 1.9million people from all over the world visited distilleries across the country.

The shop at The Famous Grouse Experience and Glenturret Distillery

Photograph by: Kenny Lam/VisitScotlandThe shop at The Famous Grouse Experience and Glenturret Distillery

Research by by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) also revealed that spending at visitor centres was up by 15.6 per cent to £60.9m.

A survey of distillery visitor centres found the highest number of tourists came from Germany and the USA, followed by people from India, China and Japan.

“These record figures are great news for the industry and great news for Scotland,” said Karen Betts, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive.

“These are exciting times.  Scotch Whisky distilleries have invested – and continue to invest – hugely in providing world-class visitor facilities at their sites all over Scotland, and they are collaborating in establishing new whisky trails and finding new ways of telling the story of Scotch to British and foreign visitors alike. And it’s a wonderful story: part traditional, part modern and set among Scotland’s communities and in its breathtaking landscapes.”

Over the past 12 months distilleries have continued to recognise the value of Scotch Whisky tourism, making significant investments to improve the visitor experience – from introducing interactive experiences to extending opening hours, upgrading infrastructure to meet demand and improving the knowledge of tour guides.

The bonded warehouse at The Famous Grouse Experience and Glenturret Distillery

Photograph by: Kenny Lam/VisitScotlandThe bonded warehouse at The Famous Grouse Experience and Glenturret Distillery

New and existing visitor centres are also planned to further tell the story of how Scotch is made, and to welcome visitors to the world of Scotch Whisky.

“These record figures show the value of the industry and how well-regarded Scotch whisky is to tourists from the UK and abroad,” said Fiona Hyslop, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs.

“As we are seeing innovative expansions to the visitor experience at distilleries around Scotland, I am confident we will see a further increase in visitors, which is great for our tourism sector and the wider economy.”

The increase in visits to 1.9million is an 11.4 per cent rise year on year and represents 45 per cent growth in popularity since 2010.

The SWA survey also details that on average over £32 was spent during each trip to a visitor centre, up almost 4 per cent year on year and by £11 per visit in 2010.

The success story of Scotch Whisky tourism has also positioned the industry as one of leading UK attractions.

The National Museum of Scotland and Edinburgh Castle are the top attractions outside London, both attracting over 2 million visits in 2017, just 100,000 more than those drawn to distilleries.

“Scotch whisky is a culinary and cultural icon and one of Scotland’s most valuable commodities, with visitors from across the globe coming to our shores to experience an authentic Scottish dram.,” said Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland.

“It is a vital part of local tourism as not only do distilleries benefit from the draw of ‘the water of life’ but so too do the surrounding towns and villages.”

Scotland is home to 122 operating malt distilleries with some 66 Scotch Whisky visitor centres open to the public and a further eight available to visit by appointment.