A record 1.9 million tourists from the UK and overseas visited Scottish whisky distilleries last year, says the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).
The SWA’s annual survey also revealed spending at visitor centres was up by 15.6% to £60.9 million, and the increase to 1.9 million is an 11.4% rise year-on-year.
Visitor centres reported that the highest number of visitors came from Germany and the US, followed by those from India, China and Japan.
Karen Betts, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, said: “These are exciting times. Scotch Whisky distilleries have invested – and continue to invest – hugely in providing world-class visitor facilities at their sites all over Scotland, and they are collaborating in establishing new whisky trails and finding new ways of telling the story of Scotch to British and foreign visitors alike.
“We will continue to work closely and collaboratively with tourist organisations, local councils and the Scottish government to ensure that Scotland’s tourists have a memorable time visiting our country and experiencing all it has to offer.”
New visitor centres are also planned, in addition to investments such as interactive experiences, extended opening hours, upgraded infrastructure and training for tour guides.
Tourism cabinet secretary Fiona Hyslop MSP said: “These record figures show the value of the industry and how well-regarded Scotch whisky is to tourists from the UK and abroad.
“As we are seeing innovative expansions to the visitor experience at distilleries around Scotland, I am confident we will see a further increase in visitors, which is great for our tourism sector and the wider economy.”
Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: “Scotch whisky is a culinary and cultural icon and one of Scotland’s most valuable commodities, with visitors from across the globe coming to our shores to experience an authentic Scottish dram.
“It is a vital part of local tourism as not only do distilleries benefit from the draw of ‘the water of life’ but so too do the surrounding towns and villages.”