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Scotch Whisky tourism saw record numbers of visitors in 2018, with over 2 million visits to Scotch Whisky distilleries from tourists for the first time.

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

The survey also showed spending at visitor centres was up by 12.2% to £68.3m – additional £7.4m compared with 2017 and 154% more than in 2010 – a result of the continued industry investment in world-class tourist centres.

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.

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

Karen Betts, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, said: “We’re delighted that Scotch Whisky distilleries have become such popular places to visit.  

“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. 

“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 industry has invested a great deal in creating fabulous visitor facilities.  That investment has been fostered by themore stable tax environment created by recent freezes in excise duty. We hope the government will continue this policy, which has both boosted the revenues available to fund public services and helped the industry to continue to invest in world-class visitor attractions.”

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Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop MSP welcomed the survey results.

She said: “I am pleased to see so much interest in our whisky tourism sector, with total spend increasing by 12.8% to over £68 million in 2018 and over 2 million visits to Scotch whisky distilleries.  

“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. The Scottish Government is committed to working with partners like the Scotch Whisky Association to increase our tourism offer and encourage more people to visit our distilleries.”

Rt Hon David Mundell MP, Secretary of State for Scotland, said: “It is great news that the whisky industry continues to make such a very significant contribution to Scottish tourism. This is in large part a result of the industry continuing to invest in excellent tourist centres.

“Today’s figures are a real boost to communities across Scotland who welcome the many visitors who are keen to sample a fine dram in spectacular scenery and find out more about Scotland’s distilling heritage.

“I am very pleased that the UK Government has done much to support the whisky industry in recent years, including a continued freeze on spirits duty.”

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