visitor experience: Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing chats over a dram with Danish tourist Anne Larsen Lindblom at Glenkinchie distillery in East Lothian. Picture: Paul Dodds
Diageo, which has 12 distillery visitor centres across the country, has seen a 14% increase in visitor figures in the past year.
From June 2011 to July 2012, there were a total of 271,968 visitors, an increase of 33,669 on those who visited a Diageo distillery the previous year.
In 2008, when Diageo first started recording visitor numbers, there were 176,471 visitors. Since then, the numbers have increased by 54.1%, showing the surge in popularity of whisky tourism.
As well as Diageo, other distilleries have seen a similar rise in visitor numbers in recent years, fuelled by the increased popularity of whisky overseas.
The most recent yearly figures from the Scotch Whisky Association showed about 1.3 million visitors to all 52 Scotch whisky visitor centres and distilleries open to the public, spending an estimated £26.9 million.
Nearly nine out of 10 visitors (86.1%) came from outside Scotland, and almost two-thirds (62.3%) came from outside the UK.
These figures chime with those from Diageo, which recorded 46 different nationalities at its visitor centres. There were big increases in visitors from the markets that are leading the global growth in demand for Scotch whisky.
The number of Chinese visitors grew from 804 in 2010 to 1241 in 2012, an increase of 54.3%. Those from Brazil rose from 514 in 2010 to 1322, up by 157.1%. Visitor numbers from Russia grew from 1976 in 2010 to 3762, a growth of 90.3%, while visitors from India grew from 1968 in 2010 to 4729, a growth of 140.2%.
Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing raised a glass yesterday at the Glenkinchie distillery in East Lothian (4037 visitors last year) to toast the growth in visitors to Scotland's distilleries.
He said: "Whisky is recognised internationally as Scotland's national drink and one of our finest exports. These figures show the significant contribution whisky makes to our economy not only through sales, but through tourism.
"People from China to Brazil travel to see how their favourite tipple is made and to sample it straight from the cask.
"I am confident that as we see new markets being opened up to our national drink we will also see a further increase in visitors from those areas, strengthening local economies in the process."
Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, also welcomed the latest figures. He said: "It is extremely encouraging that our strongest attributes continue to go from strength to strength."
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