Record growth for Scotch whisky tourism in 2017

Scotch whisky tourism grew to record levels last year, according to new figures from the industry body.

Published 1st Aug 2018
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) reported almost 1.9 million visits to Scotch whisky visitor centres in 2017, up 11.4 per cent on the previous year and a rise of 45 per cent since 2010.

Tourist spend was also up, increasing by 15.6 per cent to £60.9 million last year.
The average spend per visitor increased slightly year-on-year to £32.22, up by £11 since 2010.

Visitor centres reported that the highest number of visitors came from Germany and the US, followed by those from India, China and Japan.

Scotland has 122 malt distilleries, with 66 Scotch whisky visitor centres open to the public, and a further eight which can be visited by appointment.

Karen Betts, SWA chief executive, said: "These record figures are great news for the industry and great news for Scotland.

"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.

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"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."

The Chair of the Malt Whisky Trail, James Johnston OBE added:  "Not only does the Scotch Whisky industry have many loyal fans, it is also seeing a worldwide surge in new Scotch whisky drinkers – it is therefore no surprise that more people want to come to Scotland to see the home of Scotch.

"Speyside has the highest concentration of malt whisky distilleries in the world and our partner members of The Malt Whisky Trail have been investing in their visitor centres to help explain the fascinating history and craft of whisky-making, as well as adding to the overall authenticity and experience.

"Separate figures recently released by Moray Speyside Tourism show that Moray has particularly benefited from this trend with an extra 50,000 visitors last year alone. Tourists tell us that Moray is like 'Scotland in miniature' which may explain why it is outperforming most of the rest of Scotland in terms of year-on-year growth. We know that visitors to this unspoilt part of Scotland have an unforgettable experience, so we expect this trend to continue."

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: "These record figures show the value of the industry and how well-regarded Scotch whisky is to tourists from the UK and abroad.

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"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."

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.
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