Tourism boost

Diageo sees whisky visitors pass million milestone

Johnnie Walker Princes Street performance
The Johnnie Walker experience in Edinburgh includes the journey of the brand (pic: Terry Murden)

Scotch whisky lovers have given spirits company Diageo more than a million reasons to celebrate after visitors numbers soared into seven figures for the first time last year.

The company drew 1.13 million visitors to its 12 distilleries across Scotland and the Johnnie Walker Princes Street experience in Edinburgh.

Diageo invested £185 million in its Scottish attractions, including £85m in the Johnnie Walker base in the capital’s west end.

The first visitor figures to be published since the Covid pandemic show the investment starting to pay off with numbers reaching a new high for the company.

Johnnie Walker Princes Street opened in September 2021 and welcomed 359,000 visitors in 2023. The Talisker distillery on the Isle of Skye welcomed 184,000, while 157,000 were drawn to the Oban Distillery in Argyllshire.

Katie Harris, managing Director of Diageo Scotland Brand Homes, said: “Scotch whisky is well-established as Scotland’s leading export to the world and every bottle we sell around the world is an invitation to visit Scotland and experience its amazing culture, heritage and environment.

“The great thing about Scotch whisky tourism is that it creates opportunities all across Scotland, from our capital city to the communities of the highlands and islands where many of our distilleries are located.

Johnnie-Walker-Princes Street
Diageo opened the Johnnie Walker experience in Edinburgh in 2021 (pic: Terry Murden)

“We are incredibly proud to have welcomed more than a million people through our doors for the first time in Scotland, but we believe this is just the start and there is a powerful opportunity for further growth, with all the positive benefits that will bring to Scotland.”

The announcement coincided with tourism and hospitality leaders meeting in Aberdeen for the 2024 Scottish Tourism Month Flagship Signature Conference.

Marc Crothall, CEO of Scottish Tourism Alliance, said: “These figures highlight further evidence that Scotch whisky is making a fantastic contribution to both driving visitor demand and growing Scotland’s visitor economy across the length and breadth of the country.”

According to the most recent Scotch Whisky Association figures for the industry more than two million people visited Scotch whisky visitor experiences in 2022.

The latest overall tourism statistics show overseas visitors spent a record £1.5 billion in the third quarter of last year. The same quarter also saw GDP in the tourism sector rise 5.2% in real terms compared to the same three months in 2022 – outpacing the Scottish economy as a whole.

Tourism minister Richard Lochhead speaking in Aberdeen said: “The tourism and hospitality sector is vitally important to Scotland and touches all parts of our country. It is an economic force for good.

“The sector has faced incredible challenges in recent years but the passion, dedication and enthusiasm of the workers and volunteers has enabled it to rebuild and innovate.”

Diageo visitor attractions

Brand HomeVisitors in 2023
Blair Athol Distillery82,241
Caol Ila Distillery27,489
Cardhu Distillery31,627
Clynelish Distillery18,677
Cragganmore Distillery9,579
Dalwhinnie Distillery54,888
Glenkinchie Distillery37,241
Johnnie Walker Princes Street359,212
Lagavulin Distillery57,086
Oban Distillery157,386
Royal Lochnagar Distillery49,549
Singleton of Glen Ord Distillery64,241
Talisker Distillery184,466

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