Have you considered taking a trip to Scotland to visit historical distilleries and sample product? If so, you are not alone. Scotch is becoming big business in Scotland, and we aren’t talking merely about liquor sales. Whisky lovers are eager to visit the home of their favorite spirit.
These whisky lovers bring their wallets with them when they visit. In fact, the Scottish Whisky Association recently estimated that more than £ 30 million comes into the Scottish economy from whisky tourism. These seems like an astounding number at first, but not so much once you consider that 1.3 million people visit the area’s distilleries and attached visitor centers annually. About 86% of these big spenders come from outside Scotland and 62% from outside the UK.
The study looked at 52 different functioning Scottish distilleries, many of them with attached visitor centers. Between these facilities, 460 people are employed in the Scotch whisky industry. Another 180 are employed by local suppliers serving the industry. This does not count the inns that house the tourists, the restaurants that feed them or miscellaneous businesses like gas stations and auto rentals. In total, the number of pounds contributed by Scottish Whisky tourism may be much higher than even this estimate. This comes in addition to creating further demand for Scottish trips when these visitors return home and tell friends about their trip.
Is the tourism increase due to Scotch alone, or are there other causes? While it is always good to remain skeptical, it appears that whisky tourism is indeed responsible for the Scottish visitors’ boom. A study found that tourists seem to be clustered mainly in areas where there are active distilleries. Also, the same study noted that the countries which import the most Scotch are also those that produce the most visitors to the area. Clearly there is some link between Scotch whisky and Scottish tourism. Scottish distilleries may contribute to the Scottish economy by providing jobs, but they are also bringing the new industry of tourism.
A new program, the Scotch Whisky Embassy network, was formed in 2003 to encourage Scotch whisky tourism. This program offers bundled services including ‘Whisky Embassy’ hotels with on-site whisky bars, as well as links and special discounts to nearby distilleries, golf courses, bars and restaurants. This so far has been immensely popular, especially with upscale travelers, and has added another £ 43.2 million to the Scottish economy while generating more than 1000 jobs. We were not able to find what portion of Scottish tourism this represents, but we suspect it is a sizeable share.
The economic downturn is being felt all over the globe, and Scotland is no exception. This area has historical economic inequality and the lack of jobs that is common in rural areas all over the world. When you buy a bottle of Scotch or plan your next visit to a Scottish distillery, you are doing more than simply indulging your favorite hobby. You are helping to keep the Scottish economy and traditional Scottish craftsmanship alive.