The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland therefore launched a drive to encourage people to visit a local brewery or distillery visitor centre this Summer which, it says, are the ‘perfect staycation destinations’ as they’re located right across the country and offer a unique insight into Ireland’s rich centuries-long heritage in brewing and distilling.
ABFI released new figures showing that there were 2,590,215 visitors to the 17 brewery and distillery tourist attractions in Ireland in 2017, up from 2,437,206 in 2016. This increase of 153,009 visitors, or 6%, indicates that the growing number of distilleries and breweries opening around the country is benefiting Ireland’s tourism offering.
13 whiskey visitor centres now operate around the country and 814,000 people visited such whiskey attractions in 2017, some 81,000 more than the year before.
Visitor numbers at the Jameson Distillery Bow Street topped more than 350,000 in the 12 months since re-opening in 2017, making it the most-visited whiskey experience in the world. It was also voted Europe’s Leading Distillery Tour at the World Travel Awards.
The growing interest in Irish gin is also having a knock-on effect on Irish tourism. A number of distilleries like Rademon Estate Distillery (Down), Echlinville Distillery (Down), Connacht Distillery (Mayo) and Dingle Distillery (Kerry) include both gin and whiskey as part of their visitor experience.
Tourists come from across the world to learn about our renowned brewing tradition. 1.7 million visitors went to the Guinness Storehouse in 2017 which Fáilte Ireland listed as Ireland’s most popular fee-paying visitor attraction.
However the industry has also warned that the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill could undermine this growth. As it stands, advertisements and signs for visitor centres with brand names will essentially be banned, making it extremely challenging to reach potential visitors to these sites. It will also cause much confusion.
For example, next year it’s anticipated that there will be five whiskey distilleries in Dublin, with four in Dublin 8 alone. The Alcohol Bill will make it extremely difficult for these distilleries to advertise their visitor centres if the visitor centre includes the name of the brand. Potential visitors may face generic ‘whiskey distillery’ signs with no indication of which distillery is being referenced, causing inevitable confusion.
“These tourist attractions need to be able to reach potential visitors with advertisements and directional signage which will become increasingly challenging under proposed new legislation,” concluded said ABFI Director Patricia Callan, “We’d urge the Government to create an exemption for drinks industry tourist attractions in the Alcohol Bill.”
Ireland’s brewery and distillery visitor centres are important for Ireland’s broader tourism strategy as highlighted in Fáilte Ireland’s Food & Drinks Strategy 2018-2023. In it, Fáilte Ireland states that as “we seek to grow the value of Irish tourism over the next 10 years, Ireland’s food and drink offering has a significant role to play in delivering great visitor experiences, increasing dwell-time around the country and growing spend.”
Patricia Callan concluded, “Just like the Scotch whisky distilleries in Scotland and the vineyards in France, our drinks-related tourist attractions draw millions of visitors from around the world every year”.