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Scotch boosted by record visitor numbers


There were nearly 2m visits to Scotch whisky distilleries in 2017, with spending topping £60m and breaking all previous records, according to the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

Visitors at The Glenlivet distillery
Surging interest: More and more people are visiting distilleries, such as The Glenlivet

The SWA’s annual survey of visitor centres reported 1.89m visits to Scotch whisky distilleries last year, a rise of 11.4% on 2016 – and 45% up on the figure from 2010.

Visitors spent a total of £60.89m, a rise of 15.6% on 2016, while spend per head rose 3.8% to £32.22, the survey showed.

The highest number of visitors came from Germany and the US, followed by India, China and Japan.

Meanwhile, the economic impact of tourism in the Moray region – which includes Speyside – rose 9.6% in 2017 to reach £128.9m, according to a separate study from Moray Speyside Tourism.

Visitor numbers to the region were up 7.4% to more than 800,000, with a surge in interest in whisky one of the key factors behind the increase.

‘Speyside has the highest concentration of whisky distilleries in the world, and we know that three out of five visitors to our beautiful region go to a distillery,’ said James Johnston OBE, chair of the Malt Whisky Trail.

‘There is a booming interest in whisky worldwide, and many distilleries on the Malt Whisky Trail are investing in new visitor experiences so that they can give rising numbers of tourists an unforgettable experience.’

Malt Whisky Trail brown sign

On the trail: Whisky tourism has given the Moray region an economic boost

Karen Betts, chief executive of the SWA, said the record figures from the SWA survey were ‘great news for the industry and great news for Scotland’.

She added: ‘These are exciting times. Scotch whisky distilleries have invested – and continue to invest – hugely in providing world-class visitor facilities at their sites all over Scotland, and they are collaborating in establishing new whisky trails and finding new ways of telling the story of Scotch to British and foreign visitors alike.’

According to the SWA, distilleries have invested more than £500m in tourism over the past five years, including the opening of Macallan’s new £140m distillery and visitor centre.

Meanwhile, Diageo is spending £150m on a Johnnnie Walker tourist attraction in Edinburgh, and on renovating its 12 distillery visitor centres.

The company said earlier this year that those visitor centres attracted 440,000 people in 2017, up 15.2% on 2016.

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