A record 2.16 million visits to distilleries took place in 2019, with two in every three visits from international visitors, before the current pandemic curtailed international travel. The figures were revealed by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) as part of their annual survey, highlighting the importance of Scotch whisky to the country’s tourism. More than 1,200 people work in tourism roles at visitor centres, making up 10% of the industry’s direct employment in Scotland.

The Clydeside Distillery in Glasgow

The SWA survey showed that more than £200m has been invested in Scotch whisky tourism over the past five years to meet increased demand from visitors. Also, interest in Scotch whisky tourism has grown significantly over the last decade, boosting employment and investment in Scotland. The country is currently home to 128 operating malt distilleries and in 2019, spend at visitor centres reached £84.7m, an increase of 24%.

Glenfiddich Distillery visitor centre opening in 1969

Interestingly, distilleries in Scotland only started to allow visitors just over fifty years ago, when William Grant & Sons opened the doors to Glenfiddich distillery, inviting the public in and creating the industry’s first ever visitor centre in 1969.

Karen Betts, SWA Chief Executive
“We’re delighted that Scotch Whisky distilleries have become such popular places to visit.”  said Karen Betts, Scotch Whisky Association Chief Executive,

“The growing number of visitors to distilleries reflects in part the growth in tourism in Scotland in general, and people coming to Scotland want to see our local crafts and sample our local food and drink.”

Marc Crothall, chief executive, Scottish Tourism Alliance, added: “These figures highlight the importance of food and drink tourism to the tourism sector as a whole and to the Scottish economy plus the sheer scale of appetite from our international markets and indeed from visitors closer to home.”

Visitors at Laphroaig Distillery

Visiting distilleries is one of the most popular types of visitor attractions in Scotland and the annual SWA survey reveals the sheer number of visitors to Scotland’s malt distilleries. However, it does not provide the detail per individual distillery. I have compiled below the figures for individual distilleries where available in the public domain – please be aware that I cannot confirm the veracity of these figures. Also the data source timings vary considerably from 2013 to more recently in 2019.

The above totals 1.24M visitors, which is 57% of the latest total visitor reported by the SWA of 2.16M visitors.

Also, this list only includes 35 distilleries, when there are around 78 malt distilleries with visitor centres (or in some cases, open to the public by appointment).

I would welcome any new contributions for missing data or corrections to the visitor figures quoted above – please contact me.

Note that data sources used include the paper ‘Whisky Tourism: Facts and Insights’ by VisitScotland; The Malt Whisky Yearbook by Ingvar Ronde; from brand owners where available; local paper reports online; etc.

For Reference:

My first ever visit to a distillery in Scotland!
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