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Scotch Whisky tourism saw record numbers of visitors in 2017, with 1.9million visits to Scotch Whisky distilleries from tourists from all over the world as well as from across the UK. 

The 2017 annual survey compiled by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) also revealed spending at visitor centres was up by 15.6% to £60.9m. Visitor centres reported that the highest number of visitors came from Germany and the USA, followed by those from India, China and Japan.

Karen Betts, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, said: “These record figures are great news for the industry and great news for Scotland.

“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. And it’s a wonderful story: part traditional, part modern and set among Scotland’s communities and in its breathtaking landscapes.

“We will continue to work closely and collaboratively with tourist organisations, local councils and the Scottish Government to ensure that Scotland’s tourists have a memorable time visiting our country and experiencing all it has to offer.

“Whisky tourism is on the up, but tourists are often surprised that Scotch is more expensive here in the UK than it is in their home countries.They are surprised to know that £3 in every £4 spent on a bottle of Scotch in the UK goes to the government in tax.If tax rises further in the Autumn Budget, this will put at risk further industry investment in future growth.”

Over the past 12 months distilleries have continued to recognise the value of Whisky tourism Scotland, making significant investments to improve the visitor experience- from introducing interactive experiences to extending opening hours, upgrading infrastructure to meet demand and improving the knowledge of tour guides.

New and existing visitor centres are alsoplannedto further tell the story of how Scotch is made,and to welcome visitors to the world of Scotch Whisky.

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

She said:“These record figures show the value of the industry and how well-regarded Scotch whisky is to tourists from the UK and abroad.

“As we are seeing innovative expansions to the visitor experience at distilleries around Scotland, I am confident we will see a further increase in visitors, which is great for our tourism sector and the wider economy.”

The increase in visits to 1.9 million is an 11.4% rise year on year and represents 45% growth in popularity since 2010. The SWA survey also details that on average over £32 was spent during each trip to a visitor centre, up almost 4% year on year and by £11 per visit in 2010.

The success story of Scotch Whisky tourism has also positioned the industry as one of leading UK attractions.

The National Museum of Scotland and Edinburgh Castle are the top attractions outside London, both attracting over 2 million visits in 2017, just 100,000 more than those drawn to distilleries.

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of Visit Scotland, said:“We’re delighted that the popularity of Scotch Whisky distilleries is continuing to grow with our visitors, which reflects the hard work and investment by the industry in delivering a world-class experience.

“Scotch whisky is a culinary and cultural icon and one of Scotland’s most valuable commodities, with visitors from across the globe coming to our shores to experience an authentic Scottish dram. It is a vital part of local tourism as not only do distilleries benefit from the draw of ‘the water of life’ but so too do the surrounding towns and villages. Visit Scotland continues to work with the Scotch Whisky industry to promote events, trails and films associated with Scotland’s national drink.”

Scotland is home to 122 operating malt distilleries

  • Exports were valued at £4.37bn in 2017, with 39 bottles of Scotch Whisky shipped overseas each second
  • There are 66 Scotch Whisky visitor centres which are open to the public and a further 8 available to visit by appointment


Scotch Whisky visitor centres – visits summary
Change 2016 to 2017
Total Spend
£ million
Average spend
£ per visit
Source: Scotch Whisky Association visitor centre survey


What’s your favourite distillery to visit? Let us know in the comments!

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My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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