Scotch whisky tourism is in good spirits at the turn of 2018, as latest figures reveal a record year of visitors to Diageo distilleries across Scotland, according to new figures.
Over the past 12 months (January 2017 – December 2017), the number of tourists visiting Diageo’s 12 distillery visitor centres across Scotland reached a record high of 440,260 – an increase of 15.2% on the previous year and the highest figure reported to date as whisky distilleries become a spirited addition to many a bucket list.
To celebrate the second International Scotch Day (8 February), the distillery visitor centres will open their doors for free on 8th, 10th and 11th February to welcome visitors from home and abroad to experience standard tours of the sites and explore behind the scenes of some of the world’s favourite whiskies.
With visitors flocking to Scottish whisky sites from across the globe, this record year for Diageo demonstrates the growing contribution that Scotch – the world’s favourite whisky – is making to the tourism economy in Scotland.
Diageo’s Scotland based Head of International Supply, Ewan Andrew, said: “As the country’s lead export, Scotch whisky is one of the biggest magnets for tourism and we’re continuing to grow visitor numbers from around the world.
“We’re also continually working to ensure those visitors have the best experience at our distilleries. They always enjoy meeting the makers, then tasting and learning more about our outstanding Single Malts and Blended Scotch Whiskies. We look forward to welcoming even more visitors to our distilleries throughout the year, and especially so for International Scotch Day.”
Over the last five years, the attractions have recorded a remarkable 96.3% growth in visitor numbers across the country, fuelled by international visitors to Scotland and the increasing rise of staycations.
Blair Athol Distillery in Pitlochry, the iconic ‘home’ of the Bells’ Scotch whisky brand, was Diageo’s busiest distillery visitor centre drawing in 86,019 people over the 12 month period. This rise in visitors, up 23% from the previous year, is in part due to the launch of the site’s innovative mash tun whisky tasting bar which was officially opened by Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, in July.
With commentary on the latest figures, Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of Visit Scotland, said: “It’s fantastic news that the Diageo distilleries have welcomed a record number of visitors in 2017. This is an amazing achievement and a testament to the hard work of staff to give visitors the best experience possible.
“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 national drink.
“Whisky tourism is a vital part of local tourism for many areas in Scotland, attracting visitors, creating jobs and sustaining communities.”
Other success stories include Clynelish Distillery, situated in Brora, experiencing the biggest year-on-year increase in figures to 8,544, a rise of over 127% from 3,771 the previous year, while Lagavulin Distillery’s Visitor Centre welcomed 27,040 people through its doors in 2017 as it capped its 200th year with a 50% rise in visitors.
Diageo operates 28 malt whisky distilleries, of which, 12 have dedicated visitor centres, making it the leading provider of whisky tourism facilities in Scotland, and accounting for 1/3 of the Scotch industry in Scotland. These include the homes of some of Diageo’s most iconic Scotch whisky brands such as Johnnie Walker Blended Scotch and Glenkinchie, Talisker, Oban, Dalwhinnie and Cardhu Single Malts.