Alcohol Bill to restrict whiskey growth

The Government’s Public Health (Alcohol) Bill in its current state will hurt Ireland’s fast-growing whiskey tourism industry, according to the Irish Whiskey Association which is calling on Government to amend the Alcohol Bill so that whiskey distillery visitor centres are not impacted by proposed advertising regulations.

The proposed Bill significantly restricts advertisements which refer to alcohol branding including where alcohol advertisements can be displayed.  The Bill makes no special provisions or exemptions for whiskey distillery visitor centres. This means that advertising of visitor centres which include a whiskey (or beer) brand name will be severely restricted and in some cases prohibited.

Last year visitor numbers to Irish whiskey distilleries grew to 814,000, an 11% increase year-on-year and a 25% increase on 2015.   There are currently 13 whiskey distillery visitor centres across the country with plans for 10 more to open in the coming years.

In 2014 there were just four distilleries in Ireland, but international demand will see that number surpass 30 by 2020. Cognisant of this growth, the Irish Whiskey Tourism Strategy plans to increase visitor numbers to distilleries to 1.9 million by 2025.


Consumer interest

“In an increasingly competitive market, whiskey distillery visitor centres play an integral role in telling the story of the Irish whiskey industry and the individual whiskey brands driving its recent renaissance,” says IWA Head William Lavelle, “It allows whiskey consumers to get a better understanding of their drink of choice and distillers to reach out to new customers in a more personal, authentic setting.”


Practical implications 

The Alcohol Bill going through the Dáil at present will impose significant restrictions on what can appear in advertisements and where advertising, particularly outdoor advertising, can be placed.  The Bill defines ‘advertising’ as any form of commercial communication with the direct or indirect effect of promoting an alcohol product and includes the name of any brand of alcohol product.

This means that any ad for an Irish whiskey distillery visitor centre that contains the name of the whiskey brand will be severely constrained.  For example, visitor centre advertisements will not be allowed to contain people or a suggestion of a storyline, he explained. Outdoor advertising will also be severely limited. Advertisements will be prohibited from train stations, bus stops, Luas stops and within 200m not just of a school, but of a crèche too.

The IWA is calling for the Government to make amendments to the Bill that remove advertisement restrictions for Irish whiskey distillery visitor centres.

“The whiskey industry is one of post-recession Ireland’s greatest success stories,” concludes William Lavelle, “These visitor centres are creating new jobs and driving visitors to areas of the country not traditionally associated with tourism.

“Today we are asking the Government to carefully consider the sector and its potential for Irish tourism.”

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