Irish Whiskey Distilleries Visitor Numbers Rose 13% In 2018

By Dave Simpson
Irish Whiskey Distilleries Visitor Numbers Rose 13% In 2018

The Irish Whiskey Association (IWA) has published statistics which show that Irish whiskey distilleries welcomed 923,000 visitors through their doors in 2018.

This marks a 13.4% increase on 2017, when visitor numbers reached 814,000. The figures are based on returns from 13 Irish whiskey distillery visitor centres and brand homes located across the island of Ireland.

International Reach

The IWA's data indicates that overseas visitors accounted for 88% of visits to Irish whiskey distilleries in 2018, with the largest number of visitors coming from the US and Canada (40%), followed by the UK (14%), Germany (8%) and France (7%). Visitors from the island of Ireland (north and south) accounted for 12% of total visits last year.

The 13 Irish whiskey visitor centres and brand homes directly employed 356 staff in 2018, including seasonal posts.

According to the IWA, the results show that the industry is well on track to reach target visitor numbers of 1.9 million by 2025, as set out in the Irish Whiskey Tourism Strategy.


New Attractions

At least eight new Irish whiskey distillery visitor centres are set to open in 2019. Those currently scheduled to launch this year are:

· Blackwater Distillery, Ballyduff, Co. Waterford
· Boann Distillery, Drogheda, Co. Louth.
· Clonakility Distillery, Clonakilty, Co. Cork
· Dublin Liberties Distillery, Mill Street, Dublin 8
· Roe & Co Distillery, St. James Gate, Dublin 8
· The Powerscourt Distillery, Powerscourt estate, Co. Wicklow
· The Shed Distillery, Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim
· Lough Ree Distillery, Lanesboro, Co. Longford

While the IWA stated that the opening of these visitor centres should put the sector on target to break the one million visitor milestone in the coming months, the association also warned against complacency in the face of expected challenges in 2019.

Fast Growing Attractions

Commenting on the results, William Lavelle, head of the IWA, said, "Just as Irish whiskey remains the fastest growing premium spirits category in the world, Irish whiskey distilleries are now among the fastest growing attractions in Irish tourism.

"Irish whiskey tourism is attracting international visitors, creating jobs and supporting local economies, both urban and rural, right across the island of Ireland.


"Tourists and Irish whiskey lovers alike are keen to know more about the backstory of the whiskey - where, how and by who it is made. They want to experience the heritage and vibrancy of our distilleries. The Irish whiskey industry has a great tourism offering, and it’s only going to grow as more distilleries open their doors to the public in 2019."


Lavelle added, "The recent increase in the VAT rate on the hospitality sector poses challenges for Irish tourism. It means more expensive food, drink and accommodation for tourists, putting pressure on the already relatively low proportion of tourists spending on paid attractions like distillery visitor centres.

"At the same time, a disorderly Brexit will likely lead to a further weakening of sterling, harming tourism from the UK and Northern Ireland.

"The recently-enacted Public Health (Alcohol) Act will constrain opportunities for the advertising of Irish whiskey distilleries as visitor attractions. The act also imposes an internationally-unprecedented stigma on Irish whiskey in the form of cancer warning labels which our competitors, the Scotch and Bourbon whiskey tourism industry, don’t face."

© 2019 Hospitality Ireland – your source for the latest industry news. Article by Dave Simpson. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.