In this week’s Winners' Wednesday feature we hear from Zakia Moulaoui Guery, founder and CEO of Invisible Cities, who won the Innovation in Tourism award at the Scottish Thistle Awards National Final in 2020.
The award for Innovation in Tourism, sponsored by Geotourist, was given to Invisible Cities in recognition of their use of innovation to commit to the future of tourism in Scotland. Invisible Cities is a social enterprise that trains people who have experienced homelessness to become walking tour guides of their own city.
All the tours are developed by the guides themselves after months of training to build confidence, public speaking and customer service skills. Judges commended the business for playing a major part in social tourism, as well as the role the business plays in supporting staff to gain transferrable skills to move onto other roles.
Winning the national award for Innovation in Tourism has been a real recognition of the hard work we put into our social enterprise over the past few years.
Even though our social mission is at the core of what we do, it is as equally important to be recognised as a tour company too, with incredible products and feedback from customers. We feel this award represented just that.
The most important thing has always been the care and well-being of our trainees, guides and supported volunteers who have all experienced homelessness.
Our priority when the first lockdown happened was to support our guides with groceries, household items and activities, which we organised between March 2020 and February 2021.
We also adapted some of our tours to provide them online, and really focused our efforts on our merchandise offer, as we could ship those to people, retain engagement with our customers and generate some income for us.
It has obviously been such a challenging time but it has also given us space and capacity to think about other things we want to do.
We are very excited to be launching a new virtual tour very soon, using innovative technologies! We will announce this very soon. We are also working very hard to bring all our tours back in all our cities (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and York) before launching in Cardiff at the end of the year. I think it is important we consolidate what we are already doing there before thinking of expanding further!