Johnnie Walker maker Diageo is set to plough £150m into the Scottish tourism industry over three years via a major new centre in Edinburgh and refurbishing its other distillery visitor attractions.
Chief executive Ivan Menezes said the move was designed to take advantage of both the growing popularity of whisky and Scotland as a destination for global travellers.
“What we see is that people, specifically the next generation of consumers, are travelling a lot more and they also want to understand what is behind a product and to appreciate its craftsmanship,” he said.
Mr Menezes said the company’s Guinness store house in Dublin had become the city’s most frequented paid-for tourist attraction and a “very attractive business in its own right”. He said he hoped to replicate this success in the Scottish capital.
“This type of experience has a significant impact on loyalty to the brand,” he added.
An artist’s impression of what the Edinburgh Johnnie Walker visitor centre could look like
Mr Menezes said the investment was new money and had not been directed from an existing pot, such as marketing.
Besides being a visitor attraction, Mr Menezes said the Edinburgh site – which he hopes will be completed in 2020 in time for the 200th anniversary of Johnny Walker – will also house its Learning for Life programme.
Diageo initially committed £5m to the scheme between 2012 and 2017, helping more than 1,000 young unemployed people in Scotland into training and jobs in the hospitality industry. It has pledged to invest £1m a year into the scheme for at least another three years.
Beyond Edinburgh, Mr Menezes said part of the £150m would go on refurbishing visitor attractions at its 12 whisky distillery visitor centres. The money comes shortly after Diageo pledged £35m to opening two so-called ‘ghost distilleries’ at Port Ellen and Bora, which will be brought back to life after being mothballed for 35 years.