Leading Scottish Tourism Business sees 19.5% Growth after Investing in Staff and Community Initiatives
As part of Scottish Tourism Month 2018, one of Scotland’s leading tourism businesses has revealed that its secret to success is through investing in people and the community.
Edinburgh’s original five-star history and ghost tour company, Mercat Tours Ltd has seen a recent 19.5% year on year business growth – a significantly higher than average growth within the sector (see notes) – after introducing a number of new policies which put staff and the preservation of Edinburgh’s heritage firmly at the heart of the family business. This includes becoming a profit sharing company and the first walking tour operator in Scotland to secure accreditation as a Living Wage employer, reinforcing their commitment to fairness and equality for all.
Speaking about the importance of their business ethos Mercat Tours Managing Director, Kat Brogan said: “Scottish tourism thrives on people; whether visitors choosing Scotland, locals sharing a warm welcome or communities nurturing their unique culture. We believe that by investing in our team and the local community, our business and wider economy benefits.
“The staff and community projects that we support have a real impact on the tourism economy in Edinburgh. We help coordinate projects across the sector to try and multiply the effect for all people, at all levels; visitors, staff and community.”
Changes that Mercat Tours introduced for staff in recent years include:
- Becoming a profit sharing company with all guides and office staff receiving an equal share of annual profits.
- A company policy decision to discontinue any seasonal contracts. All staff now receive guaranteed year round contracts.
- Securing accreditation as a Living Wage employer, by going further than the UK government minimum wage and making sure that all staff, regardless of whether they are direct employees or third-party contracted staff; receive a minimum hourly wage of £8.75. This rate is significantly higher than the statutory minimum for over 25s of £7.50 per hour introduced in April 2017 and is calculated according to the real costs of living.
- Introducing a professional Napier University Guide accreditation exclusive to Mercat Tours’ guides, which had seven graduates in 2017. The accreditation is free for staff and can count towards a master’s degree.
- Purchasing a company holiday home for use by staff and also charities selected by the business.
- Encouraging staff to participate in business development decisions and the designing of new walking tours and experiences.
- Delivering three months of extensive training for new guides supported by their more experienced colleagues.
- Providing access to external continual professional courses through membership of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), and Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA).
- Providing additional staff benefits including the cycle to work scheme, the Government Childcare Voucher Scheme and a company pension.
- Attaining Investors In People recognition in record time.
- Regularly offering paid placements to Queen Margaret University or Napier University students.
Explaining the impact such investment has had on their business, Kat said: “Since my father founded Mercat Tours in 1985 our small team has flourished into a fully-fledged family business thanks to the passion, dedication and hard work of our incredibly motivated and loyal team – a third of whom have been part of the Mercat family for over 10 years. When I took over as Managing Director in 2015, I wanted to make sure that the value of our people was fully recognised and rewarded. The commitment and pride this has built in the team is powerful and we’ll use the momentum to grow a sustainable future.
Highlighting the impact this has had on staff loyalty Jane Calwell, finance added: “I’ve been working with Mercat Tours for over 15 years now and would not want to work for anyone else. They’ve really made me feel like part of the Mercat family. I’m currently studying for my Association of Chartered Certified Accountants qualification, supported by the company. I originally began work with Mercat as a storytelling guide but was given the opportunity to work within different departments to explore my own strengths and interests. I receive great rewards for putting my all into my role and I’m very proud to be part of the team.”
Speaking of Mercat Tours’ accreditation as a Living Wage employer, Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance said: “We are delighted that Mercat Tours are a Living Wage employer. Over a year ago they joined the growing movement of over 1000 companies in Scotland who want to go further than the government minimum and recognise that Living Wage accreditation is the mark of a responsible employer. I hope more organisations follow their lead by becoming accredited.
“The real Living Wage is one of the key tools at our disposal to help make an impact on levels of in-work poverty in Scotland. There is a strong business case for paying the Living Wage; but crucially allows those in work to become more included in society, better provide for their families, and feel that their value and hard work is recognised by their employer.”
In addition to investing in staff, Mercat supports a number of charities and social initiatives that focus on protecting Edinburgh’s heritage and enhanced the future enjoyment of the city. This includes:
- OneCity Trust’s fundraising campaign for a statue to honour one of Edinburgh’s most remarkable residents, Dr Elsie Inglis – a pioneering doctor and leading Scottish Suffragist
- Edinburgh World Heritage
- Macmillian Cancer Support
- The Grassmarket Community Project
For more information about Mercat Tours visit: www.mercattours.com