Scotch whisky visitor centres ranked as Scotland's top attraction after topping two million visitors

Scotch whisky is, once again, drawing millions of visitors to Scotland and is back to pre-pandemic levels, says the Scotch Whisky Association

Scotch whisky visitor centres have been ranked as Scotland’s top visitor attraction after topping two million visitors last year.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said the result signalled a recovery to pre-pandemic levels. Figures show Scotch whisky visitor centres collectively have risen to become the top visitor attraction in Scotland, with footfall more than doubling (114 per cent) compared to 2021.

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Visitor spend per head at Scotch whisky visitor centres has risen by 8.65 per cent over the same period, with more than £85 million spent in total at sites across Scotland’s five whisky regions – up 90 per cent since 2010.

The opening up of international travel following pandemic lockdowns has played a significant role in the recovery of Scotch whisky tourism, with visitors from the United States, Germany and France among the top five demographics. Visitors from the UK account for over half of all visitors to Scotch whisky sites (51 per cent), amounting to more than one million people for the first time.

The Scotch whisky industry employs more than 1,100 people at visitor centres, many of which are based in rural areas. Investment in Scotch whisky tourism has totalled more than £300m over the past decade, with a number of new visitor centres having opened.

Despite the 2022 recovery, this year’s tourism season has been more difficult. The cost-of-living crisis, the impact of the 10.1 per cent tax increase in August, and ongoing infrastructure challenges mean the positive impact of whisky tourism to the Scottish economy cannot be taken for granted.

Wellbeing economy secretary Neil Gray said: “The Scotch whisky industry is extremely valuable to the Scottish economy in terms of production and exports and, as the latest figures show, increasingly also for tourism and hospitality. Achieving more than two million visits to Scotch whisky visitor centres in 2022 demonstrates the allure of world-class Scotch whisky visitor attractions, and the successful efforts of the wider tourism industry to rebuild Scotland’s profile post-pandemic.

"It is heartening to hear that the whisky industry’s investment and innovation in Scotch whisky tourism have encouraged continued growth.”

Mark Kent, chief executive of the SWA, said: “Scotch whisky forms a key part of the Scottish economy, helping to put Scotland on the map and driving tourism from around the world. Visiting a Scotch whisky site is an unforgettable experience, and our industry’s focus on delivering a world-class tourism offering is helping to make memories for millions of people who travel to Scotland to discover Scotch for themselves.

“The recovery of Scotch whisky tourism as travel opened back up in 2022 demonstrates the continued global appeal of Scotch whisky, but this recovery should not be taken for granted. Scotch whisky visitor centres are a key part of the attraction for tourists, with wider benefits seen through regional employment and increased visitor spend in hospitality and accommodation. Tourism is growing for Scotch whisky, but it needs to be sustainable growth. Whilst these are positive figures on the back of significant industry investment, we know that ongoing work is needed to ensure that they can be sustained for the long term.”

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Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said: "It’s great news to read such positive results around a strong return of international travellers visiting our distilleries. Whisky tourism plays a vital role in driving the growth and future sustainability of Scotland’s tourism industry. A globally important cultural and economic phenomenon, whisky is a hook that draws thousands of visitors from around the world to our shores, year after year to enjoy uniquely immersive experiences across Scotland’s distilleries. The importance of being able to promote and market whisky and whisky tourism in the future should never be underestimated; those who visit distilleries also spend significant sums in our local economies which supports job retention and creation particularly within rural communities.”



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