UNITED STATES VISITORS outnumbered all other nationalities for the first time at the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival earlier this year.
That was the result of an independent report that also revealed people visiting Moray and Speyside for the annual festival over the May Bank Holiday weekend remained in the area longer than in previous years.
Almost one-third more people remained in the region for the entire five nights than in the previous year – while those visitors who remained for at least one night increased by almost 10%.
Spin-offs from the world’s largest festival of its kind were also apparent for other parts of Scotland, with an economic impact assessment highlighting that 40% of those who visited took the opportunity to travel to other parts of Scotland during their stay.
Details of the report have been released as organisers ramp up their plans for the 2016 Festival that takes place from April 28 to May 2 – while tickets do not go on sale until early next year local accommodation providers are expecting to be busy with advance bookings.
James Campbell, chairman of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, said: “While we are delighted to continue to attract visitors from all around the world to Speyside, we are particularly pleased to see the Festival becoming such a draw for the USA, highlighting the event’s growing appeal among a global audience.
“The United States has become a key market for us and the fact that so many people are willing to travel such great distances to experience our unique offering speaks volumes for the hard work put in by everyone involved with the Festival.
“The region is already on the map because of its whisky – now we are spreading the word across the globe that Speyside offers visitors the warmest of welcomes and a first-class experience.
Almost 20 years in the making
The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival has been running for almost two decades and has grown over the years to include a huge number of partners and event providers. Visitors can choose from a packed programme of events encompassing everything from whisky tasting and distillery tours, food events, music, comedy and cultural heritage.
The overall sum spent locally on Speyside during the 2015 festival was calculated at £1.36m, and for Scotland as a whole the amount was £1.58m.
Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland Chief Executive, commented: “Whisky is one of Scotland’s most valuable commodities and The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is a must for anyone looking to experience an authentic Scottish dram.
“To hear that the Festival has widened its international appeal and visitors are staying for longer is fantastic news and testament to the hard work and dedication of organisers in creating an unmissable and entertaining event programme.
“A rise in visitors from Scotland’s most important overseas market, America, is hugely welcome and fits perfectly with tourism trends we are seeing across the entire country.
In August, the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival was selected as one of the top 12 Best Drinking Festivals in the World by US-based entertainments website, The Richest.
The 2016 Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival – and its traditional musical arm the Spirit of Speyside Sessions – takes place from April 28 to May 2.
For further information about the event visit www.spiritofspeyside.com with tickets on sale from January 2015. The Festival is also active on social media – facebook.com/WhiskyFestival and @spirit_speyside on Twitter.