Edinburgh Zoo’s Barbara Smith has been appointed as general manager of the upcoming £150 million Johnnie Walker visitor experience in Edinburgh, Diageo has announced.
According to a press release from Diageo, Barbara Smith will take on the role at the Johnnie Walker Princes Street experience – a flagship visitor attraction for the world’s leading Scotch whisky.
Smith will also be responsible for running the 14 distillery brand homes in Scotland. She will leave her current role as CEO of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.
Barbara Smith will run 14 visitor experiences in Scotland
Smith has more than 30 years of leadership experience at popular leisure and tourist attractions, including Edinburgh Castle, Chester Zoo and Edinburgh Zoo.
“I am incredibly excited to join Diageo and Johnnie Walker at a time when they are making such a major investment in the future of Scotch whisky tourism, both in Edinburgh with the Johnnie Walker Princes Street flagship and in distilleries around Scotland,” said Smith.
“I look forward enormously to playing a leading role in delivering this transformational programme,” she added.
“I would like to thank my colleagues at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. It is a wonderful organisation and it has been a true privilege to lead them over the last few years. I wish everyone there the very best for the future.”
The Johnnie Walker Princes Street attraction is part of Diageo’s £150 million investment in Scotch whisky tourism.
This includes additional visitor experiences with the transformation of four distilleries around Scotland – Glenkinchie, Cardhu, Caol Ila and Clynelish.
These will be linked to the Edinburgh venue and will represent the four corners of Scotland. The attractions will create a Johnnie Walker tour of Scotland.
Diageo is investing £150m in Scotch whisky tourism
“We are absolutely delighted to have recruited a leader of Barbara’s quality to run our whisky visitor experiences in Scotland,” said Cristina Diezhandino, Diageo Global Scotch Whisky Director.
“She has an exceptional record of leadership at some of the UK’s most successful attractions and we are thrilled to have someone of such capability, experience and vision joining us.
“We look forward to working with Barbara to deliver our ambition of creating the world’s leading whisky destinations.”
Diageo is also investing more than £35 million to restore the lost distilleries of Brora in the Highlands and Port Ellen on Islay. This will take the number of distillery visitor experiences in Scotland to 14.
Elsewhere, pub chain JD Wetherspoon is creating a museum and hotel at The Moon Under Water in Wolverhampton.