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Chinese visitors boost whisky tourism

By BO LEUNG | China Daily UK | Updated: 2017-09-12 16:43

China's growing appreciation for whisky has contributed to a surge in visits to Scottish distilleries.

The number of visitors to Scotland's whisky distilleries reached an all-time high of 1.7 million in 2016, an increase of eight percent on the previous year, according to the Scotch Whisky Association.

More than half of Scotland's 123 Scotch whisky distilleries are open to the public.

Diageo, one of the world's largest producers of spirits, saw the strongest growth in visitors from China with a rise of 154 percent in admissions.

But while Chinese tourist numbers remain fewer than those from key markets of Germany, the US and France, visitors from China spend nearly a third more.

"Scotch is not only Scotland's most valuable export industry, it is the world's most popular spirit, attracting thousands of international visitors every year," said Ewan Andrew,Diageo's Scotland director. "The Scotch Whisky Association's latest annual survey found that visits have increased by almost a quarter since 2010."

Scotch tourism is also going down well for visitors from Russia; the country was highlighted as an emerging market with numbers up 146 percent year-on-year with an average spend similar to that of Chinese visitors.

Andrew said that as demand for premium products and interest in whisky grows in China and Russia,"tourists from these countries are visiting distilleries not only to purchase whisky straight from the distillery, but to discover the expertise and craft that goes into making every bottle".

In the last 12 months, the number of tourists visiting Diageo's 12 distillery visitor centers in Scotland exceeded 400,000, which is more than double what it was 8 years ago.

Whisky continues to gain popularity in Asia, driven in part by rising middle-class incomes in China.

The company estimated that more than one hundred new whisky bars or collector's clubs opened last year in the world's second-largest economy.

Diageo said the heritage, provenance and craft credentials of whisky are important factors for whisky lovers from China and their thirst for the spirit is shown through knowledge and a desire to refine their appreciation.

According to Diageo's 2017 report, net sales to China rose 25 percent, with whisky sales up 5 percent, driven by brands such as Johnnie Walker, The Singleton and other malts.

"Scotch in China is doing very well and we're growing market share in scotch,'' said Ivan Menezes, chief executive officer of Diageo. "Our focus is on superpremium scotch. So Johnnie Walker, Blue Label and malt is where we see the strategic growth as I look at the next few years."

China is currently the single largest alcohol market in the world.

 

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