The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) is calling for local consumers to visit Scottish distilleries to help the industry recover from a drop in international tourists.The SWA has revealed the latest visitor figures for distilleries across Scotland in its annual survey. In 2019, Scotch whisky sites welcomed its highest number of visitors to date, 2.16 million – an increase of 7.8%. The SWA said two in every three visits (66%) to these distilleries last year were from international travellers. Visits to Scotch whisky distilleries have increased by two thirds since 2010. However, the SWA said the pandemic has had a “significant impact” on international travel during 2020. As such, the trade group is calling for the public to support their local tourist attractions and enjoy new experiences. The SWA said more than a third of the sector’s 68 visitor centres were Covid-secure and open to visitors. Karen Betts, SWA chief executive, said: “That two in every three visits to Scotch whisky visitor centres last year were from international tourists shows how popular Scotch whisky is around the world and what a fabulous entry point it is for tourists discovering Scotland’s fascinating heritage, beautiful landscapes and wonderful food and drink. “But the figures also underline how hard Scotch whisky tourism is being hit this year, when international travel and tourism has all but disappeared as everyone plays their part in controlling the spread of Covid-19. All visitor centres closed in March and although some have now reopened, 2020 is proving to be a very difficult year for tourism.” Betts said support was “vital” to the industry and urged consumers to buy a bottle of whisky when they visit. She added: “UK consumers are often surprised to learn that £3 in every £4 spent on Scotch whisky in the UK is collected in tax. The chancellor can back the industry and support the tourism sector by cutting duty on spirits in the autumn budget.” The survey also showed that more than £200m (US$254m) has been invested in Scotch whisky tourism over the past five years to meet increased demand from visitors. In 2019, spending at visitor centres reached £84.7m (US$108m), an increase of 24%. More than 1,200 people work in tourism roles at visitor centres, making up 10% of the industry’s direct employment in Scotland. Marc Crothall, chief executive, Scottish Tourism Alliance, added: “These figures highlight the importance of food and drink tourism to the tourism sector as a whole and to the Scottish economy plus the sheer scale of appetite from our international markets and indeed from visitors closer to home. "Recovery will undoubtedly be challenging; we all have a part to play to protect and grow our tourism sector and invest in the clear opportunities ahead, such as whisky tourism, to maintain Scotland’s presence as a global destination." In July 2020, trade group Drinks Ireland also launched a new campaign to encourage local consumers to visit Irish whiskey distilleries as they reopen.