Planning a stay-cation this summer? Why not visit one of Ireland’s brewery or distillery visitor attractions

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Drinks industry visitor centres attracted 2.6 million visitors in 2017

Impending legislation will damage growth as ‘ads and directional signage to visitor centres to be banned’ – ABFI

As Ireland continues to experience hot weather, the country is enjoying a staycation boom and people are taking the opportunity to explore all the country has to offer. Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) has today 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 are located right across the country and offer a unique insight into Ireland’s rich heritage in brewing and distilling that spans centuries.

ABFI has released new figures which shows 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 is an increase of 153,009 visitors or 6%.* These figures indicate that the growing number of distilleries and breweries opening around the country is benefiting Ireland’s tourism offering.

From the Bushmills Distillery in Antrim, to the Dingle Distillery in Kerry, the Irish whiskey renaissance continues to capture hearts and minds. There are now 13 whiskey visitor centres around the country and 814,000 people visited 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 (March 2017-March 2018), 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. Additionally, the Listoke Distillery and Gin School has emerged as an increasingly popular destination in Louth.

From Asia to Australia, tourists come from across the world to learn about our renowned brewing tradition. A whopping 1.7 million visitors went to the Guinness Storehouse in 2017, which Fáilte Ireland has listed as Ireland’s most popular fee-paying visitor attraction. Meanwhile, the Smithwick’s Experience welcomed 61,934 visitors in 2017, up 12% from 2016.

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, Director of Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) said:

“Ireland’s drinks industry is backed by centuries of respected brewing and distilling tradition that we should be proud of. This rich heritage has benefited Ireland’s tourism offering, as the array of drinks related tourist attractions in existence are rife with amazing stories from the past.

“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.”

However, the industry 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 - Roe & Co, The Dublin Liberties, Pearse Lyons Distillery and Teelings Distillery. The Alcohol Bill will make it extremely difficult for these distilleries from advertising 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.

Patricia Callan concluded:

“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. We’d urge the Government to create an exemption for drinks industry tourist attractions in the Alcohol Bill.”


*Source: ABFI members

Full list of drinks industry tourist attractions:

Irish whiskey
Jameson Distillery – Bow Street
Jameson Distillery - Midleton
Tullamore DEW Distillery - Offaly
Bushmills Distillery – Antrim
Kilbeggan Distillery - Westmeath
Teeling Distillery – Dublin
Walsh Distillery – Carlow
Slane Distillery - Meath
Pearse Lyons Distillery – Dublin

Irish gin and whiskey
Connacht Distillery – Mayo
Echlinville Distillery – Down
Dingle Distillery – Kerry
Rademon Estate Distillery - Down

Irish beer
Guinness Storehouse – Dublin
Smithwick’s Visitor Centre – Kilkenny
O’Hara’s Brewery – Carlow

Irish gin
Listoke Distillery and Gin School – Louth