Whiskey tourism surges 425% in Ireland
After international travel essentially ground to a halt during the coronavirus pandemic, whiskey tourism in Ireland has roared back – aided by an increase in the popularity of ‘staycations’ and tourists from the US.
Figures from the Irish Whiskey Association (IWA) found that visits to Ireland’s whiskey distilleries had increased more than fourfold in 2022, with a total 677,000 visitors providing a 425% uplift year-on-year.
However, those numbers are still some way below the pre-Covid peak of 1.02 million seen in 2019.
“2022 represented a year of recovery following two years of closures and restrictions, due to Covid-19,” said James Doherty, chairperson of the IWA.
“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.”
Tourists from the United States accounted for some 34% of total distillery visitors in 2022, with Germany and Great Britain providing for 9.5% and 9% respectively.
“While overall numbers are still down on the pre-Covid peak, we are targeting full recovery in 2023,” Doherty added. “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.”
More than 200,000 bottles of Irish whiskey were purchased in distillery gift shops in 2022, the IWA’s research found.
The IWA anticipates that 26 Irish whiskey distilleries will be open to the public this year, directly employing more than 400 people.
The value of exports of Irish alcoholic drinks reached €2 billion for the first time last year, with the growth of the whiskey category a driving force behind the rise.