Whisky distilleries take in £50m as visitor numbers soar

Julie Hesketh-Laird
Julie Hesketh-Laird

Scottish whisky distilleries are attracting more visitors from the UK and across the globe than ever before after more than 1.5 million people came to see how the iconic product is made last year - and spending £50 million in the process.

A new survey by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has revealed a year-on-year rise in visitor numbers of around 6 per cent, and an increase of more than 15 per cent from just under 1.3 million recorded in 2010.

The numbers mean Scotch Whisky distilleries are collectively among some of the UK most visited attractions, with the largest proportion of visitors coming from Scotland and other parts of the UK, Germany, USA and France, reflecting some of the largest markets for Scotch.

The biggest market by value for Scotch is the USA, followed by France, while Germany ranks at number five.

Meanwhile, the £50 million spent at distilleries last year on tours and in shops and cafes was up from £27m in 2010.

The average spend per visitor last year was around £32.50, as producers enjoyed the payoff from investment to enhance visitor centres and provided a wider range of offerings, such as special bottlings, tailored tasting and blending sessions.

The findings reflect figures published earlier this month by the Office of National Statistics that showed tourism visits to Scotland increased by 5 per cent between 2013 and last year, with visitors spending more than before.

Julie Hesketh-Laird, Scotch Whisky Association deputy chief executive, said: “During Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink, and particularly during the Whisky month of May, our survey shows just how many people want to visit distilleries to see how Scotch Whisky is made, try a dram and buy a bottle to take home to family and friends. Every year, distilleries are attracting more visitors from the UK and all parts of the globe.

“Scotch Whisky producers are investing in their centres and shops to give visitors the best possible experience. As well as providing another source of income for producers, the increasing number of visitors is good for the wider Scottish economy. Visitors are spending more at distilleries and are likely to being doing the same with other businesses, including hotels and restaurants. It also helps put Scotland on the map.”

Mike Cantlay, VisitScotland chairman, said: “Research shows time and time again how popular distilleries are with visitors and with five distinct whisky regions, each producing their own unique characteristics and flavours, every visit offers a different taste of the county’s important whisky tourism industry.”

Mickey Heads, manager of the Ardbeg Distillery on Isaly, said: “Distilleries like Ardbeg have become a place of pilgrimage for the Single Malt Whisky faithful and these findings echo the growth in visitor figures we have experienced.”

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