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Spirit of success: whisky tourism booming

By Lorna Thompson

MORAY tourism bosses have toasted the success of the Malt Whisky Trail after new figures suggest whisky-related tourism is flourishing like never before.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said visits by tourists to Scotch whisky distilleries broke through the 2 million mark for the first time in 2018. The annual survey found visits were up 6.1% year on year and were 56% more than in 2010.

Moray Speyside has the largest concentration of whisky distilleries in the world and is home to many big global brands. The region’s Malt Whisky Trail incorporates eight of these alongside the UK’s largest independent cooperage. These are Benromach, Cardhu, Dallas Dhu, Glen Grant, Glen Moray, Glenfiddich, The Glenlivet, Strathisla and Speyside Cooperage.

Malt Whisky Trail (MWT) chairman James Johnston OBE said: "The MWT was the first malt whisky trail established in the UK. Now we are seeing other regions try to emulate the MWT’s success by setting up their own trails in order to capitalise on the surge of both national and global interest in malt whisky.

"This is a story that only Scotland can tell – and Speyside tells it best of all.

Other regions are now setting up their own whisky trails.
Other regions are now setting up their own whisky trails.

"Visitors are fascinated by the history of whisky making, and the sights, sounds and smells of a distillery provide an unforgettable experience."

Laurie Piper, operations manager for Moray Speyside Tourism, was delighted by the figure but highlighted that the area has more to offer than whisky and warned against complacency.

He said: "These results are encouraging for the industry but we can’t rest on our laurels.

"Speyside is the spiritual home of Scotch whisky and we need to maximise the benefit of that and attract as many visitors as we can – especially as new whisky visitor attractions are being built in the central belt.

"Tourism as a whole is now worth £130 million to the Moray economy but last year we saw visitor numbers plateau after a record surge in 2017.

"Distilleries are clearly proving a big draw, but we also need to promote the beautiful scenery and attractions that Moray has to offer."

Karen Betts, SWA chief executive, said: "Distilleries offer something of an antidote to today’s fast-paced world, where visitors can see the slow, careful craft, rooted in a distinct sense of place, that creates Scotch whisky.

"The growth in whisky tourism is also playing a crucial role in Scotland’s rural economy, with more stays at hotels, more bookings at restaurants, and more customers for local businesses, helping communities to grow and prosper.

"The industry has invested a great deal in creating fabulous visitor facilities.That investment has been fostered by the more stable tax environment created by recent freezes in excise duty. We hope the government will continue this policy, which has both boosted the revenues available to fund public services and helped the industry to continue to invest in world-class visitor attractions."

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop MSP said: "Tourism is one of our key sectors and the spending and jobs associated with visitor centres and distilleries boost our economy, especially in more remote, rural areas."

David Mundell MP, Secretary of State for Scotland, said: "Today’s figures are a real boost to communities across Scotland who welcome the many visitors who are keen to sample a fine dram in spectacular scenery and find out more about Scotland’s distilling heritage.

"I am very pleased that the UK Government has done much to support the whisky industry in recent years, including a continued freeze on spirits duty."

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