Whisky tourism boom as 2018 sees record visitor numbers

Scotch Whisky tourism saw record numbers of visitors in 2018, with over two million visits to Scottish distilleries from tourists for the first time.

Visits to distilleries are up. (AP Photo/Fred Seelig)

The annual survey compiled by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) revealed visits were up 6.1 per cent year on year and 56 per cent more than in 2010.

Over 20 different nationalities visited distilleries last year, with Germany and the USA providing the largest number of Scotch Whisky tourists. Increased visits from France, Spain, and the Netherlands were also reported, as well as India and China.

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Collectively, Scotch Whisky distilleries remain the third most visited attraction in Scotland.

Karen Betts, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, said: “The growing number of visitors to distilleries reflects in part the growth in tourism in Scotland in general, and people coming to Scotland want to see our local crafts and sample our local food and drink.

“But it also reflects a growing curiosity about Scotch Whisky. Today’s consumers want to understand and experience how their favourite blends and malts are made, to meet the people who make them, and to see which part of Scotland’s beautiful landscape they call home.

She added: “Distilleries offer something of an antidote to today’s fast-paced world, where visitors can see the slow, careful craft, rooted in a distinct sense of place, that creates Scotch Whisky.

“The growth in whisky tourism is also playing a crucial role in Scotland’s rural economy, with more stays at hotels, more bookings at restaurants, and more customers for local businesses, helping communities to grow and prosper.

The survey also showed spending at visitor centres was up by 12.2 per cent to £68.3m - additional £7.4m compared with 2017 and 154 per cent more than in 2010.

Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Tourism is one of our key sectors and the spending and jobs associated with visitor centres and distilleries boost our economy, especially in more remote, rural areas.

“With investment across Scotland, from major firms such as Diageo in the new Johnny Walker experience in Edinburgh, to Rosebank in Falkirk and Brora in the Highlands, it’s a really exciting time for the whisky tourism sector.”