A record number of people visited Scotch whiskey distilleries in the last year, the largest in a decade, according to industry figures, which were precise. A Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) survey found visitor numbers passed 2 million for the 1st time, following a year-on-year increase of 6.1%.
The customer visit increase represented a 56% rise in the number recorded in 2010. Total spending by tourists last year was more than 12% up, at £68.3m, while average spending per visit was also 5.8% higher, at just over £34.
The industry’s investment on whiskey tourism has increased tremendously, with companies such as Diageo who have shell out large amounts to improve their visitor offerings.
In March, Distell International announced it had launched a £10.5m upgrade of Bunnahabhain Distillery on Islay, including a new visitor centre. In April, Hunter Laing & Company said it hoped to attract 20,000 visitors a year to its new Ardnahoe Distillery, also on Islay.
More than 20 varied nationalities have poured into Scotch distilleries over the last year, with Germans and American leading foreign tourism.
Visitors from France, Spain, and the Netherlands also increased, along with a rise in the number of visitors from India and China.
Senior tourism officials in Moray Speyside welcomed the new figures but warned that the region could not afford to be complacent.
Moray Speyside Tourism operations manager Laurie Piper said: “These results are encouraging for the industry but we can’t rest on our laurels.
“Speyside is the spiritual home of Scotch whiskey and we need to maximize the benefit of that and attract as many visitors as we can, especially as new whiskey visitor attractions are being built in the central belt.”
The Malt Whisky Trail, which includes eight distilleries in the Speyside area, as well as the UK’s largest independent cooperage, also welcomed the SWA figures.
Chairman James Johnston said: “Visitors are fascinated by the history of whiskey-making, and the sights, sounds and smells of a distillery provide an unforgettable experience.”