This marked an increase of over 11% on 2016 when 733,000 visitors were recorded.
More significantly, it marks an increase of 25% from 2015, when 653,000 visitors were recorded. In 2015, the Irish Whiskey Association published its Irish Whiskey Tourism Strategy to support this growth.
2017 saw Irish Whiskey Association members operating 12 distillery visitor centres on the island of Ireland. This included two new distillery visitor centres opened during the year at Slane Distillery in County Meath and Pearse Lyons Distillery in Dublin. A new distillery visitor centre will open on the 21st of January at Rademon Estate Distillery in County Down. 2018 is also likely to see the opening of further visitor centres at new whiskey distilleries in locations ranging from Clonakilty to Drogheda to Dublin 8.
In total, Irish Whiskey Association members plan to open at least 10 more visitor centres in the coming years.
The majority of visitors to whiskey distilleries in Ireland come from the US, the UK, Germany, France and Northern Europe.
William Lavelle, Head of the Irish Whiskey Association, stated that Irish whiskey tourism was becoming an increasingly important part of Ireland’s tourism offer.
“Whiskey tourism is delivering tourists, jobs and investment to local economies right across Ireland, from Dublin’s Liberties to rural communities,” he said, “Increasingly, the promotion of a whiskey brand goes hand-in-hand with the promotion of the home distillery. For this reason, the promotion and advertising of Irish whiskey distillery visitor centres is often inseparable from the promotion and advertising of the Irish whiskey brands produced there.
“Despite this, the Government is attempting to severely restrict the promotion and advertising of Irish whiskey through the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. This means that advertising of visitor centres could be severely constrained. This is yet another unintended consequence of this Alcohol Bill. This could prevent the advertising of whiskey tourism, negatively impact this growing industry and put jobs at risk in communities which are heavily reliant on the influx of visitors to the local distillery visitor centre.
“The repeated refusal of the Department of Health to engage with industry means that the consequences of this legislation have not been fully assessed. With the Alcohol Bill due to come before Dáil Éireann soon, we’re calling on the Minister and TDs to engage with us on reasonable amendments. This would better balance the Bill, ensuring the growing Irish whiskey tourism industry is protected.”