An interesting albeit not very surprising article was published today in the online Press and Journal titled "Distilleries toast success as visitor centre numbers soar". The article mentions an increase of 20% in two years in whisky tourism according to figures from Diageo, Scotland's largest distillery operator and owner of Islay's Lagavulin and Caol Ila distilleries. Drinking whisky is becoming more and more popular and visiting a distillery where your favourite dram is made is high on many whisky drinker's list. More than 210,000 people visited the 12 centres run by Diageo - the country's biggest distillery operator - in 2010, up from 176,471 in 2008. The Scotch Whisky Association says a total of about 1.2million tourists visit the 42 distilleries in Scotland that are open to the public every year. The article doesn't mention Islay in particular but I wouldn't be surprised if the rise in visitor numbers is even higher on Islay due to the huge popularity of distilleries such as Laphroaig, Ardbeg, Bowmore and Bruichladdich.
Steve Blake, general manager of Diageo's visitor centres, said the statistics reflected the growing worldwide popularity of whisky. He said: "Scotch whisky is this country's fastest-growing export and the great thing about whisky is that it is also a fantastic advert for Scotland. It's a high-quality product which promotes Scotland as a quality tourist destination to people all round the world. Just as we focus on the superb quality of the whisky we produce, over recent years we have put increasing effort into ensuring that is matched by the visitor experience we offer at our distilleries. We very much hope that, as the popularity of Scotch continues to expand around the world, we will be able to play a key role in attracting increasing numbers of visitors to Scotland. It is equally encouraging that we have seen such a healthy growth in UK visitors. It is clear that people love the magic, the mystery and the history of our Scotch whisky industry".