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Brexit boosts Scotch whisky tourism

Published:  08 September, 2017

Scotch whisky distilleries has posted a record 1.7 million visits during 2016 – an increase of almost 8% compared to the previous year, according to new research from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

Since 2010, visits had increased by around a quarter, with more than half of Scotland’s 123 Scotch whisky distilleries now opening their doors to the public, the annual report released today revealed.

In addition, the SWA said visitors were spending more than ever at distilleries, splashing out more than £53 million in 2016, with the average spend per person up 13% to £31 from £27.

Brexit, and the weakness of sterling, had given distilleries a “short term boost”, said SWA chief executive, Karen Betts, adding the “current uncertainty” had not adversely affected investment in visitor facilities.

“Over the last year distilleries have spent money on new bar areas, staff, technology, such as apps for visitors, and staff, partly as a result of longer opening hours to meet demand, with many distilleries planning to continue to invest, for example in upgrading shops and tasting areas to enhance the visitor experience,” she said.

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

“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 - that can’t be the right way to encourage more visitors and to support an industry that plays such an important role in the economy, tourism and local communities.”

The largest proportion of visitors came from Germany, Scotland and other parts of the UK, the USA, and France, according to the report.