Ireland's whiskey industry is calling for the promotion of an internationally-marketed whiskey trail, similar to the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland's Ancient East, to help capitalise on the country's whiskey resurgence.
It's goal is to increase the 653,277 tourists who visit an Irish whiskey distillery each year to 1.9 million by 2025, reports The Irish Independent.
As part of the new strategy, the industry is calling for investment for the development of a tourism infrastructure around distilleries as well as the promotion of Irish whisky festivals abroad. Exports of Irish whiskey have been up by 60 per cent since 2009, with annual whiskey exports valued at €410 million. Currently there is 28 distilleries operating or being developed in Ireland with plans for an investment of €1 billion into the whiskey industry to help grow its market share by 300 per cent.
"The growing success of Irish whiskey internationally and an outstanding whiskey visitor performance to date means Ireland has the potential to compete with Scotland and Kentucky to become the world's number one whiskey tourism destination," said Bernard Walsh, chairman of the Irish Whiskey Association and chief executive of Walsh Whiskey Distillery in Carlow.
"We've never done this before, to promote the category of Irish whiskey worldwide. Nobody is out there promoting Irish whiskey whereas they are with scotch and bourbon. But to become the number one whiskey tourism destination in the world, Ireland will have to compete against its biggest rival, Scotland. We have 653,000 visitors coming to Ireland's whiskey visitor centres. Bearing in mind that we have only had five key visitor centres, we are just finding our feet.
"In Scotland, on the other hand, their visitor numbers are 1.4 million. One in every five visitors to Scotland goes to see a distillery during their trip. They've got 109 distilleries, with about 60 of those having a visitor centre, so we're ahead of the game in terms of the numbers we're getting to visit the few distilleries we have. But we really need to up the ante. There's a great opportunity to become number one in the world very quickly. In order for the industry to grow we need more distilleries, new tastes and variations, it needs to be an exciting and vibrant category," commented Walsh.