After several challenging years for the international travel industry, a new report indicates that visits to Irish distilleries increased dramatically over the past year — a good sign for pandemic recovery in the spirits-related tourism sector.
In 2022, Irish whiskey distilleries recorded a 425 percent year-over-year increase in visitors, according to a Jan. 24 article from The Spirits Business. The Irish Whiskey Association (IWA) released the study, which reports 677,000 annual visitors to the country’s whiskey distilleries.
While the tourist count is optimistically up, this number hasn’t fully bounced back to its pre-pandemic peak. In 2019, a whopping 1.02 million visitors toured distilleries in Ireland, per IWA data.
“2022 represented a year of recovery following two years of closures and restrictions, due to Covid-19,” IWA chairperson James Doherty stated, according to The Spirits Business. “While 2021 saw encouraging support from domestic visitors and staycationers, 2022 saw a strong rebound in the number of visitors from international markets, particularly North America, Germany, and Great Britain.”
34 percent of 2022’s Irish whiskey tourists came from North America, followed by 9.5 percent from Germany and 9 percent from Great Britain. 15 percent of distillery visitors originated domestically — with many Irish visitors treating themselves to “staycations,” as The Spirits Business puts it.
As more visitors flock to whiskey production sites, distilleries are innovating new ways to expand and connect with guests. In September, Pernod Ricard (parent corporation of Jameson Irish Whiskey) announced a $248 million dollar expansion aimed at attracting visitors to a new site nearby to Midleton Distillery.
Doherty estimates that some 26 whiskey distilleries in Ireland will be open to visitors in the coming year.