Irish whiskey industry warns ‘ludicrous’ advertising restrictions will damage tourism

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Whisky whiskey Ireland tourism

New alcohol regulations in Ireland could restrict signposting to whiskey distillery visitor centres and small distilleries – delivering a hefty blow to the burgeoning whiskey tourism sector, says the Irish Whiskey Association.

Under the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, free-standing directional or way-marking signage containing the name of a distillery or alcohol brand would be banned from display at any Luas (Dublin tram) or bus stop, or within 200 metres of any boundary of a school or early-years facility.

In practice, this means that nearly all outdoor advertising and directional signage for distillery visitor centres will be prohibited in dense urban areas such as Dublin or in busy provincial towns, argues the Irish Whiskey Association.

New restrictions ‘excessive, impractical, disproportionate and ludicrous’

Whiskey tourism is on the rise in Ireland. In 2017, visitor numbers grew 11% to 814,000: 90% of whom were overseas tourists. There are currently 13 whiskey distillery visitor centres in the country, with plans for an additional 13 in the coming years.

But the regulations would also affect tourism across beer and other alcohol categories. The Guinness Storehouse, for example, is the most popular fee-charging tourist attraction in the country with over 1 million visitors a year alone.

The Irish Whiskey Association, which is part of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland, is calling for changes to be made to the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill in order to protect the Irish whiskey tourism sector and small distillers in the country.

In particular, it highlights the effect of restrictions on smaller distilleries: saying restrictions would be anti-competitive as small businesses and new brands will struggle to compete with established brands.

William Lavelle, head of the Irish Whiskey Association, said that the organisation supports the objectives of the Public Health (Alcohol Bill) to promote sustainable and responsible levels of alcohol consumption: but criticises some of the advertising measures as “excessive, impractical, disproportionate and in some cases, just ludicrous”.

“The Irish whiskey industry is diverse one. We have major distilleries driving export growth, but we also have smaller distilleries helping to spur-on exciting competition and innovation in the domestic markets, something which consumers have embraced.

The majority of Irish Whiskey Association members are SME (small and medium sized enterprises) based in rural communities across the country.

"These companies employ local people; buy from local farmers and attract tourists to their locality," ​continued Lavelle.

“Small distilleries and innovative, new brands will lose out the most if advertising restrictions come in as they will struggle to compete with more established brands.

"The advertising of spirits is already banned on television. The draconian restrictions to outdoor advertising and promotion provided for in this Bill are an unnecessary step too far. They are anti-competitive, they will stifle innovation, they will limit consumer choice and they will put jobs at risk.

“We are calling for a small number of reasonable amendments to protect the Irish whiskey tourism sector and small distillers around Ireland.”

Public Health (Alcohol) Bill

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill (PHAB) aims to reduce alcohol consumption in Ireland to 9.1 litres per person per annum by 2020 and to reduce the harms associated with alcohol. The bill, approved by government on the 8 December 2015, has 29 sections and includes five main provisions.

These are:

  • Minimum unit pricing;
  • Health labelling of alcohol products;
  • Regulation of advertising and sponsorship of alcohol products (this relates to Whiskey Distillery Visitor centres);
  • Structural separation of alcohol products in mixed trading outlets and;
  • Regulation of the sale and supply of alcohol in certain circumstances.

The Bill is currently before Dáil Éireann (the Irish Assembly), Third Stage of amendments.

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