Share
Scotland’s Whisky Tourism Enjoys A Big Boost From Brexit

Scotland’s Whisky Tourism Enjoys A Big Boost From Brexit

Whisky distilleries in Scotland enjoyed a record number of visitors in 2016, according to the industry’s lobbying body, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

Together, the country’s whisky makers registered 1.7 million visits, up 8% compared to 2015 as more distilleries responded to increased interest by opening visitor centres to attract and cater to tourists. Currently, more than half Scotland’s 123 Scotch whisky distilleries are open to the general public.

The average spend by distillery visitors has also risen to a total of £53 million, with each one spending an average £31, up by 13% from £27 the prior year.

In the flood of negativity around the economic impacts of Brexit, Brexiteers at least can take credit for helping boost Scotland’s industry (leaving aside the irony that its people voted overwhelmingly to stay in the European Union).

Distilleries, which were surveyed to compile the report, attributed increased visits primarily to the weakened pound triggered by Brexit – more tourists visited Scotland and spent more.[/tweet_quote] That said, the longer-term impacts of Brexit are not yet clear for the whisky industry.

There are plenty of other reasons, not least that distilleries opened up their wallets and invested in new bar areas, staff, technology including apps,  and extended opening hours.

Over the next 12 months, many plan to continue to upgrade shops and tasting areas to enhance the visitor experience, among other tourist enhancements.

The 390-acre Macallan distillery in Speyside

Scotland’s whisky festivals such as the Islay Feis Ile and the Spirit of Speyside Festival keep growing in popularity and see more visitors making their way over to drink a tipple or five.

“These figures are certainly good news, showing the esteem with which Scotch whisky is held around the world and the value of the whisky industry to Scotland, beyond simply revenue generated by sales and exports,” Scotland tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop said of the new report.

SWA chief executive Karen Betts suggests that Scotch whisky’s popularity could translate into a political move of easing some of the extremely high taxes levied on distilleries – which she says could mean more spend by tourists.

A welcome further boost to the whisky industry during this time of change would be to see a cut in excise duty in the U.K. autumn budget,” she said. “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.”

Whisky distilleries haven’t always been a tourist draw, or a principle reason to visit Scotland. It’s actually the fruit of labor that began in the 1960s, when the Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, and Glenfarclas distilleries opened visitor centers.

It took another 30 years for 44 more to open – and it wasn’t really until the 1990s that whisky tourism started to boom.

It hasn’t stopped since, and with so many new distilleries opening across Scotland these days, those visitor numbers are likely to be higher this year, and beyond.