Scotch Whisky tourism more popular than ever
08 Sep 2017
Distillery visits and spend on the up
Investment in visitor centres
Scotch Whisky distilleries achieved a record 1.7 million visits
last year - up almost 8% on 2015 - and more sites than ever are
opening their doors to showcase the skill and craftsmanship of this
The Scotch Whisky Association's (SWA) latest annual survey found
that visits have increased by around a quarter since 2010 and more
than half of Scotland's 123 Scotch Whisky distilleries now welcome
members of the public.
Collectively, Scotch Whisky distilleries rank among some of the
most popular Scottish and UK attractions, with a similar number of
visits annually to the likes of St Paul's Cathedral, the Royal
Albert Hall and the Scottish National Gallery.
Visitors are also spending more than before at distilleries. A
total of almost £53 million was spent by visitors in 2016, up from
last year. And average spend per person increased 13% to £31 from
The current Scottish Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology
is likely to give a further boost to visitor numbers as Scotch
Whisky is a key part of Scotland's past and its present.
In the short term, many distilleries believe that Brexit has
given tourism a boost with more visitors coming to Scotland because
of the weak pound and spending more at distilleries while they are
there. But the longer-term impact of Brexit is not yet
However, current uncertainty has not adversely affected
investment in visitor facilities. Over the last year distilleries
have spent money on new bar areas, staff, technology, such as apps
for visitors, and staff, partly as a result of longer opening hours
to meet demand. Over the next 12 months, many plan to continue to
invest, for example in upgrading shops and tasting areas to enhance
the visitor experience.
Distilleries reported that the largest proportion of visitors
came from Germany, Scotland and other parts of the UK, the USA, and
France. Distilleries are also popular with whisky enthusiasts from
Sweden and Norway. The success of whisky festivals, such as Islay
and Speyside, are also helping to attract new visitors to
Karen Betts, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive,
"Scotch Whisky - Scotland's most popular export - is known
throughout the world. It is produced right across Scotland, in some
of our most beautiful landscapes and some of our remotest
communities. Each distillery is distinctly of its
place. Their histories, stories and modern-day craftsmanship
fascinate locals and overseas visitors alike. It's not surprising
that more and more tourists are visiting Scotland's distilleries to
see how Scotch is made and to meet the people involved.
"Last year, Scotch Whisky distilleries achieved a record 1.7
million visits, up almost 8% on 2015, and people are spending more
than before - often to take a taste of Scotland home with them.
Brexit and the weakness of sterling have given a short term boost
to distilleries, and, despite some uncertainty about the long-term,
they are continuing to invest to improve visitor facilities.
"A welcome further boost to the whisky industry during this time
of change would be to see a cut in excise duty in the UK autumn
budget. The high 80% tax burden on an average priced bottle
of whisky means that foreign visitors often pay more tax for Scotch
in Scotland than in their own countries. That can't be the
right way to encourage more visitors and to support an industry
that plays such an important role in the economy, tourism and local
Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop said:
"These figures are certainly good news, showing the esteem with
which Scotch whisky is held around the world and the value of the
whisky industry to Scotland, beyond simply revenue generated by
sales and exports.
"With further enhancements to the visitor experience at
distilleries around Scotland, the Scotch whisky industry can
continue to generate interest among domestic and international
"I am confident that as we see new whisky markets being opened
up, we will also see a further increase in visitors, strengthening
local economies in the process."
Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: "It's
wonderful to see that Scotch Whisky distilleries enjoyed a record
number of visits in 2016. It's a testament to the hard work put in
by these businesses to give visitors the best experience possible.
VisitScotland is committed to working closely with businesses to
showcase the country's rich assets.
"Whisky is one of Scotland's most valuable commodities with
people from all over the world coming to our shores to experience
an authentic Scottish dram. A culinary icon, it remains as
important as ever to the tourism industry with one in five visitors
making a trip to a whisky distillery during their stay and even
more visiting a bar, pub or restaurant to sample our renowned
"The success of Scotland's whisky distilleries is particularly
apt as we celebrate the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.
From World Heritage Sites to ancient monuments, cultural traditions
to our myths, stories and legends - the yearlong programme is
shining a spotlight on some of Scotland's greatest assets as well
as our hidden gems."
Notes to Editors
The findings are based on a survey of a sample of distillery
visitor centres by the SWA. Figures given represent paying
customers visits to industry visitor centres in 2016.
Picture shows Karen Betts, Scotch Whisky Association on Islay
this week. The island is home to eight Scotch Whisky distilleries
with more planned.
A selection of distillery case studies with photography are
available on request.
More than 60 Scotch Whisky distilleries/sites welcome visitors
(some by appointment only). Comparative figures for other visitor
attractions were sourced from the following news release by the
Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA):
An infographic is available below.
With media queries please contact SWA head of communications
Rosemary Gallagher, firstname.lastname@example.org and 0131 222 9230.