A massive £150million investment in whisky tourism will boost the industry’s image in the same way wine-producing countries across the globe have successfully done for decades, an MSP representing the biggest producing area in Scotland has claimed.
North politician Richard Lochhead yesterday hailed the announcement by drink giant Diageo to “transform” a host of visitor centres across Moray and the Highlands and Islands.
The firm this week unveiled the “biggest single investment” ever seen in the sector in a major tourism drive based around its Johnny Walker brand – the world’s top-selling Scotch.
Mr Lochhead, who represents Moray and Speyside – where half of the country’s whisky is produced – said: “The investment in whisky related tourism by Diageo is most welcome and provides a boost to the sector.
“Our local distilleries are becoming increasingly popular as international visitors in particular choose to visit the home of their favourite dram and experience the magic of distilling at first hand.
“The companies appreciate more than ever that the personal experience of visiting a distillery is a great way to win new customers and build a closer relationship with existing ones.”
He added: “The wider industry with the support of the public sector could learn from other countries and capitalise on Speyside’s fame in the way that wine producing regions around the world have successfully done.
“It’s encouraging that the industry is beginning to get behind the tourism potential of our most iconic product.”
Scotch Whisky Association chief executive Karen Betts added: “I’m delighted to see this investment by Diageo, which is a huge vote of confidence in the future of Scotch Whisky.
“Scotch Whisky tourism is increasingly important to the business model of distilleries, with over 1.7m visits to Scotch Whisky visitor centres last year. This not only provides a boost to communities across Scotland, but also showcases Scotland’s culture, history and beauty by sharing our pride in Scotland’s national drink.”
Diageo aims to “transform” visitor centres at Cardhu on Speyside and Clynelish at Brora and Caol Ila on Islay.
Other distilleries, including Talisker on Skye, Glen Ord at Muir of Ord, Oban, Cragganmore on Speyside and Royal Lochnagar – on the edge of the Balmoral Estate – are also in line for cash to support growing demand for single malts around the world.
In addition, the company will create an “immersive visitor experience”, in Edinburgh, wholly dedicated to Johnnie Walker whisky.
Diageo chairman David Cutter said: “This will not only build the Scotch whisky industry, it will bring economic benefits to communities throughout Scotland.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that Diageo’s “significant” investment would help to attract more tourists to Scotland.