Mercat Tours is a local, independent, family business which has delivered award-winning walking tours of Edinburgh since 1985. The organisation works closely with key community projects and provides storytelling experiences which reveal the fascinating history of the city whilst exploring its premium attractions and venues.
We spoke with Kat Brogan, Managing Director at Mercat Tours to discuss the work of the organisation and the importance of supporting and engaging with underprivileged communities.
Kat Brogan, Managing Director at Mercat Tours. © Mercat Tours
Partnership with the Grassmarket Community Project
The Grassmarket Community Project (GCP) is a close neighbour of ours and their ethos of looking after people by building a community based on dignity, respect and care aligns with our core values. Our partnership has thrived for more than 10 years and benefits our teams, our community and, ultimately, Edinburgh.
The Our Stories, Your City project, which involves donations paying for members of the GCP to have a private tour and entry to a city attraction, was born from our work together and was a very natural extension and strengthening of our bond. It is a new and genuine way to deepen our connection, helping us all heal and move on after the disruption caused by the pandemic and provide funding and support to Living Wage employers who are still recovering.
Our vision and success have been recognised with four prestigious awards;
- Living Wage Scotland Leadership Award 2021
- UKInbound Attraction of the Year 2022
- Tiqets Remarkable Venue Award - Most Innovative Venue 2022
- Federation of Small Businesses Awards - Larger Small Business 2022
For our community to thrive it needs equity in opportunity and experience so everyone can be connected and supported. Our project builds a deep sense of pride and ownership of our city by locals and encourages a warm welcome and positive experience of Edinburgh for visitors. We have a unique must-visit destination which has the potential to balance the needs and benefits of locals and visitors equally.
The business events market is hugely important to Mercat Tours and can have a significant impact through its decision-making and spending power by choosing to support a Living Wage employer with an established mechanism to invest in the local community.
There are several ways event planners can work with us including setting up their own city tours or by donating to the Our Stories, Your City project to help us reconnect the vulnerable communities of the city.
In November 2022, we had the opportunity to attend CHS Birmingham with VisitScotland Business Events, which provided us with a platform to share our story and discuss our sustainable business models with the wider UK market.
We had 50 buyers join us for our presentation and it was fantastic to see the enthusiasm from them and to understand the benefits that tours, such as ours, bring to their organisations and their clients, with many wanting to leave a legacy in a destination.
We see the grip that both the pandemic has had and the cost of living crisis continues to have on the budgets of schools and households as well as students struggling to access off-campus activities, meaning their development, life-experience, learning and connection with their city all suffer.
Based on Mercat's belief in the power of storytelling to heal and make meaningful connections and building on the success of our Our Stories, Your City project, we're launching phase two in April 2023 - Our Stories, Your City - Schools. In January, we had a soft launch and had a fantastic response, I cannot wait to fully launch the project and to see the shoots of activity that are inspired by this. The project is being supported by Scottish Government through its Developing the Young Workforce project and Skills Development Scotland and we've already received a number of applications.
Visitors' donations will fund underprivileged young people in Edinburgh to enjoy a five-star, educational tour free of charge. We're thrilled to be partnering with Holy Rood RC High School to launch this project and support its students who are suffering this social exclusion.
Joan Daly, Head Teacher of Holy Rood RC High School said: ''The Our Stories, Your City initiative provides an opportunity for our pupils to enjoy the rich cultural experiences our city has to offer with no cost barriers to consider. This provides a real sense of equity for accessing school excursions making them accessible for all.
"Not only will it provide an opportunity to enjoy the wonderful cultural sites which our city has but will also go some way in raising their aspirations and developing the skills and confidence to become engaged in society as the new young workforce of the future."
In addition to this, we will be launching our new adult-only tour 'Witches; Trial and Truth' which will explore the misogyny and persecution and discrimination that women faced and minority groups across two centuries from the 1600s.This will provide a unique platform to discuss diversity, equity and inclusion and how that has changed over the years.
To find out more visit - www.mercattours.com