Mercat Tours have won two prestigious industry awards for their innovative ‘Our Stories, Your City’ project launched in April 2022. UKinbound and ticketing platform Tiqets have awarded the Edinburgh-based company ‘Award for Excellence Best Individual Attraction’ and ‘Most Innovative Venue’ of the year 2022 respectively for the visionary project.
The collaboration of five visitor attractions offers Edinburgh’s visitors a walking tour at the same time as supporting some of the city’s most vulnerable people to reconnect with their city and stories – a mutual and equal benefit to all.
Through their decade-long partnership with the Grassmarket Community Project, local social enterprise supporting people with multiple complex issues, Mercat Tours quickly recognised the role their award-winning Storytellers could play in ‘reconnecting the disconnected’ after the pandemic heightened health inequalities, isolation and social exclusion.
The independent, family-owned tour company demonstrated stand-out innovation under the pressure of the pandemic by leading and launching the ground-breaking ‘Our Stories, Your City’ project to benefit Living Wage tourist attractions and local vulnerable communities equally, boost sales and promote the city as a sustainable, responsible destination.
Produced in collaboration with five of the historic capital’s most iconic visitor attractions and the Grassmarket Community Project (GCP), Our Stories, Your City is designed to ensure everyone feels included, welcomed and treated equally whilst supporting Living Wage jobs in the city.
The digital booking platform supports the recovery of visitor attractions through sales, while also generating donations to provide free tours for members of the Grassmarket Community Project (GCP). By donating a tour rather than money, it creates a bond among all participants and the city, giving them all a sense of inclusion through the same unique storytelling experience.
Within its first five months:
- Over 270 donations worth over £1,700 received
- 628 visitor attraction tickets sold
- Over £15,700 income was generated for visitor attractions
Sean, Grassmarket Community Project Member who experienced a Mercat Tour including including Edinburgh Castle thanks to visitors’ donations said, “I cannot thank Mercat enough. It blew my mind.”
“In 4 years of guiding thousands of visitors, this audience has to be the most important – it was a privilege”, says Margaret-Ann, Mercat Tours Storyteller.
Kat Brogan, Managing Director of Mercat Tours said, “We have long supported the Grassmarket Community, an organisation which creates a family-like community to provide sanctuary and support to people dealing with multiple complex issues. We saw a great opportunity for Mercat visitors and team to get involved in helping Edinburgh’s local vulnerable community.
“Stories are powerful. They make connections between people, places and the past. Stories ground us. Sadly, some people have lost that connection. Vulnerable people can feel excluded from their city and their past. They live here, but it’s not theirs.
“Being cut off from their culture holds them back. Their confidence and a sense of ‘home’ need to be rebuilt. Stories are powerful, and help heal. That’s why this project, our team and visitors have had real impact.”
Jonny Kinross, CEO of the Grassmarket Community Project, outlined the support it provides. “Through social enterprise, mentoring, education and support in a nurturing environment, the project creates opportunities for those furthest from mainstream education and employment opportunities. Individuals develop skills and confidence, reconnect with themselves and their community, and improve their overall health and wellbeing.
“The complex issues that people bring to the Grassmarket Community could be applicable to anyone, from anywhere.”
Alexis Peppis, Tiqets Regional Director Northern Europe said, “From the very start, Tiqets has been a champion of sustainable tourism and it’s fantastic to award Mercat Tours with The Most Innovative Venue trophy. Their work on building a charitable Pay It Forward campaign that unlocks the city and stories of Edinburgh for its vulnerable community members, is exactly what we want to support.”
Joss Croft, CEO UKinbound said, “Our industry has worked incredibly hard over the last 12 months and our Awards for Excellence recognise and celebrate the companies and organisations that have made a significant contribution to the continuing success of the sector, and we were delighted to name Mercat Tours Best Individual Attraction.”