Scotch Whisky distilleries get record 1.7m visits

Karen Betts

Scotch Whisky distilleries achieved a record 1.7 million visits last year — up almost 8% on 2015.

Distilleries now rank among some of the most popular Scottish and UK tourist attractions — with a similar number of visits annually to the likes of St Paul’s Cathedral, the Royal Albert Hall and the Scottish National Gallery.

Almost £53 million was spent by visitors to distilleries in 2016, with the average spend per person increasing 13% to £31.

The Scotch Whisky Association’s (SWA) latest annual survey found that visits have increased by around a quarter since 2010 and more than half of Scotland’s 123 Scotch Whisky distilleries now welcome the public.

Distilleries reported that the largest proportion of visitors came from Germany, Scotland and other parts of the UK, the US, and France.

Karen Betts, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, said: “Each distillery is distinctly of its place.

“Their histories, stories and modern-day craftsmanship fascinate locals and overseas visitors alike.

“It’s not surprising that more and more tourists are visiting Scotland’s distilleries to see how Scotch is made and to meet the people involved …

“Brexit and the weakness of sterling have given a short term boost to distilleries, and, despite some uncertainty about the long-term, they are continuing to invest to improve visitor facilities.

“A welcome further boost to the whisky industry during this time of change would be to see a cut in excise duty in the UK autumn budget.

“The high 80% tax burden on an average priced bottle of whisky means that foreign visitors often pay more tax for Scotch in Scotland than in their own countries.

“That can’t be the right way to encourage more visitors and to support an industry that plays such an important role in the economy, tourism and local communities.”

Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: “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.”