Record 1.9 million visits to Scotch whisky distilleries in 2017

Scotch whisky tourism had a record year in 2017 with a total of 1.9 million visits and a total of £60.9 million spent at visitor centres, according to the latest figures from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

As part its annual survey, the industry body found that spending at visitor centres rose 15.6% to reach £60.9 million with the highest number of whisky tourists hailing from Germany and the US, following by India, China and Japan.

Visitor numbers have seen an 11.4% rise year-on-year with a 45% growth in popularity since 2010. The SWA has also calculated the average spend per visit to be £32 which is up 4% year-on-year and by £11 since 2010.

In acknowledgement of the financial boost that whisky tourism brings, the SWA has noted a number of significant improvements to visitor experiences including the introduction of interactive tours, the extension of opening hours and upgrading infrastructure in line with demand.

Among the distilleries and visitor centres that have opened or been planned this year are Speyside Distillery’s new £200k visitor centre, Holyrood which has raised £5.8 million to build Edinburgh’s first single malt whisky distillery in 90 years, Isle of Arran Distillers’ second distillery which is on track for a spring 2019 opening, Halewood’s plan for a John Crabbie whisky distillery in Leith, the opening of the new Borders Distillery making it the first legal Scotch whisky producer in the region since 1837, Speymalt Whisky Distributors’ plans to build a new malt Scotch whisky distillery in the Cairngorms National Park, and community group Stòras Uibhist’s plans to build a £10 million whisky distillery on the Outer Hebridean island of South Uist, the setting that inspired the 1947 novel Whisky Galore.

Edrington also opened its new £140 million (US$188.4m) Macallan distillery and visitor centre next month, complete with interactive tour, which will increase its production capacity by a third.

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

“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.

“We will continue to work closely and collaboratively with tourist organisations, local councils and the Scottish Government to ensure that Scotland’s tourists have a memorable time visiting our country and experiencing all it has to offer.

“Whisky tourism is on the up, but tourists are often surprised that Scotch is more expensive here in the UK than it is in their home countries. They are surprised to know that £3 in every £4 spent on a bottle of Scotch in the UK goes to the government in tax. If tax rises further in the Autumn Budget, this will put at risk further industry investment in future growth.”

Cabinet secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop MSP added: “These record figures show the value of the industry and how well-regarded Scotch whisky is to tourists from the UK and abroad.

“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.”

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