Scotch whisky distilleries draw 'record' visitor numbers

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A record number of people visited Scotch whisky distilleries in the last year, according to industry figures.

A Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) survey found visitor numbers passed two million for the first time, following a year-on-year increase of 6.1%.

The 2,004,745 visits represented a 56% rise on the number recorded in 2010.

Total spend by tourists last year was more than 12% up, at £68.3m, while average spend per visit was also 5.8% higher, at just over £34.

The industry has been investing heavily in whisky tourism, with companies such as Diageo spending significant sums on improving their visitor offerings.

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In March, Distell International announced it had launched a £10.5m upgrade of Bunnahabhain Distillery on Islay, including a new visitor centre.

And in April, Hunter Laing & Company said it hoped to attract 20,000 visitors a year to its new Ardnahoe Distillery, also on Islay.

According to the latest annual survey, more than 20 nationalities visited Scotch distilleries over the last year, with Germany and the US providing the largest number of tourists.

Visitors from France, Spain, and the Netherlands also increased, along with a rise in the number of visitors from India and China.

Scotch whisky facts:

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  • Scotland is home to 128 operating malt distilleries
  • There are 68 Scotch whisky visitor centres which are open to the public and a further eight available to visit by appointment
  • On average, more than £34 was spent during each trip to a visitor centre in the last year
  • Scotch exports were valued at £4.7bn in 2018, with 41 bottles of Scotch shipped overseas every second

Source: SWA

Senior tourism officials in Moray Speyside welcomed the new figures but warned that the region could not afford to be complacent.

Moray Speyside Tourism operations manager Laurie Piper said: "These results are encouraging for the industry but we can't rest on our laurels.

"Speyside is the spiritual home of Scotch whisky and we need to maximise the benefit of that and attract as many visitors as we can, especially as new whisky visitor attractions are being built in the central belt."

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The Malt Whisky Trail, which includes eight distilleries in the Speyside area, as well as the UK's largest independent cooperage, also welcomed the SWA figures.

Chairman James Johnston said: "We know that three out of five visitors to Speyside go to a distillery, and we have been working hard to showcase everything Speyside has to offer.

"Visitors are fascinated by the history of whisky-making, and the sights, sounds and smells of a distillery provide an unforgettable experience."