Scotch Whisky distilleries attracted more than 2 million visitors in 2022, it has been revealed.

A Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) survey found footfall more than doubled (114%) compared to 2021. 

Total spend by tourists last year was up by 8.65%, with more than £85m spent in total at sites across Scotland’s five whisky regions, up 90% since 2010.

The opening up of international travel following pandemic lockdowns played a significant role in the recovery of Scotch Whisky tourism.

Visitors from the United States, Germany and France – all key export markets for Scotch Whisky – were among the top five demographics. 

Visitors from the UK account for over half of all visitors to Scotch Whisky sites (51%), amounting to more than 1 million people for the first time.

The Scotch Whisky industry employs more than 1,100 people at visitor centres, many of which are based in rural areas.

Investment in Scotch Whisky tourism has totalled more than £300m over the past decade, with a number of new visitor centres having opened. 

Despite the 2022 recovery, the 2023 tourism season has been more difficult with the cost-of-living crisis, the impact of the 10.1% tax increase in August, and ongoing infrastructure challenges.

‘Scotch whisky forms a key part of the Scottish economy, helping to put Scotland on the map and driving tourism from around the world,’ said Mark Kent, chief executive of the SWA.

‘Visiting a Scotch Whisky site is an unforgettable experience, and our industry’s focus on delivering a world-class tourism offering is helping to make memories for millions of people who travel to Scotland to discover Scotch for themselves. 

‘The recovery of Scotch Whisky tourism as travel opened back up in 2022 demonstrates the continued global appeal of Scotch Whisky, but this recovery should not be taken for granted.

‘Scotch Whisky visitor centres are a key part of the attraction for tourists, with wider benefits seen through regional employment and increased visitor spend in hospitality and accommodation. 

‘Tourism is growing for Scotch Whisky, but it needs to be sustainable growth.’

Marc Crothall, Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said: ‘It’s great news to read such positive results around a strong return of international travellers visiting our distilleries.

‘Whisky tourism plays a vital role in driving the growth and future sustainability of Scotland’s tourism industry. 

‘A globally important cultural and economic phenomenon, whisky is a hook that draws thousands of visitors from around the world to our shores, year after year to enjoy uniquely immersive experiences across Scotland’s distilleries.

‘The importance of being able to promote and market whisky and whisky tourism in the future should never be underestimated; those who visit distilleries also spend significant sums in our local economies which supports job retention and creation particularly within rural communities.’

Read more news and reviews on Scottish Field’s food and drink pages, in association with Cask & Still magazine.

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