A tourism and leisure veteran who previously led visitor attractions such as Edinburgh Zoo and Edinburgh Castle has been put in charge of Johnnie Walker’s forthcoming flagship site on Princes Street.
Barbara Smith is to run the new global flagship visitor attraction for the Scotch whisky brand. She will join its parent company, spirits giant Diageo, as general manager of the Johnnie Walker Princes Street visitor experience and will also be responsible for running the company’s network of 14 distillery “brand homes” across Scotland.
The appointment will see her leave her current post as chief executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.
The Johnnie Walker Princes Street attraction is the focal point of Diageo’s £150 million investment in Scotch whisky tourism. Such plans include transforming Glenkinchie, Cardhu, Caol Ila and Clynelish distilleries and restoring those in Brora in the Highlands and Port Ellen on Islay.
Smith has 30-plus years’ leadership experience running top UK leisure and tourist attractions, also including Chester Zoo, and is described as building a strong reputation for developing major visitor destinations.
Cristina Diezhandino, Diageo global Scotch whisky director, said Smith “has an exceptional record of leadership at some of the UK’s most successful attractions… We look forward to working with Barbara to deliver our ambition of creating the world’s leading whisky destinations”.
Smith said: “I am incredibly excited to join Diageo and Johnnie Walker at a time when they are making such a major investment in the future of Scotch whisky tourism, both in Edinburgh with the Johnnie Walker Princes Street flagship and in distilleries around Scotland.”
Roof-top bars will be provided at the flagship tourist attraction, offering views of the Capital.