Skip to main content
Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 14/05/2024

Case study | Mercat Tours

We spoke with Mercat Tours as they celebrate the success of their project 'Our Stories, Your City' and feature in Tourism Cares' interactive Meaningful Travel Map.

Find out more about how Mercat Tours was established and what they love about Scottish tourism. They also share the impact of working with communities and the importance of telling local stories. 

Who are Mercat Tours?

Mercat Tours was founded by Des Brogan, a passionate history teacher. He had a simple mantra that  ‘History is a damn good story.  What it needs is a damn good telling

Established in 1985, Mercat Tours has grown to become an award-winning family business offering history walks and ghost tours of Edinburgh. We focus on making meaningful connections with their visitors, the city and the past through storytelling.

Visit Mercat tours website

Mercat tours

Tour guide talks to visitors on Edinburgh's Royal Mile.

What do you and your team enjoy about working in Scottish tourism?

Tourism is the most inclusive and inspiring sector to develop a career in. It holds the power to create diverse, dynamic teams that attract passionate people to work and equally supports communities to thrive. We believe that tourism is everyone's business, where everyone has a place.

The team is led by the desire to look after people, building community before profit.  The new project, ‘Our Stories, Your City’, reconnects disconnected and vulnerable communities of Edinburgh with their city through storytelling, paid for by visitors’ donations, demonstrating tourism as a force for good.

A tour guide

Tour guide entertains crowd of visitors.

Tell us about the ‘Our Stories, Your City’ project

In 2020, the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic gave everyone a far deeper understanding of exclusion -  from life, choices, opportunities and connections.  This led to the idea that Mercat Storytellers can use their skills to reconnect vulnerable communities with their city through storytelling on five-star tours. Paid for by visitors’ donations and supporting local Living Wage jobs this is a win win for everyone, equally.

Stories are powerful. They make connections between people, places and the past.

Sadly, some people have lost that connection. Those in vulnerable communities can feel cut off from their city and their stories.  They live here, but the stories are not theirs.  This can happen to anyone, such as those helped by the Grassmarket Community Project (GCP), in our local schools in isolated communities.

Dislocation from their culture holds them back and can be caused by lack of money, confidence or opportunity - made acute by the pandemic and cost of living crisis.  Stories can help them to recover and our visitors can help too.

Mercat logo


Donations from Mercat visitors buy GCP members and vulnerable local kids the same five-star tour as they enjoy, free of charge. These are offered at an exclusive discount by attractions, paid for by visitors.

What are successes from the project?

The success of our relationship is rooted in the shared belief Mercat and GCP have in the importance of community.

This progress is thanks to our visitors belief in the power of storytelling to make connections. As the donations continue to grow, so does the strength of our promise to use storytelling to benefit those who need it most.

Some key stats:

  • £5,600 donated
  • 56 tours funded
  • 840 GCP members benefited
Read the project impact report

Learn more about the project in collaboration with the Grassmarket Community Project.

Tell us about your experiences of being on the Meaningful Travel Map?

Like many Scottish tourism businesses, Mercat considers our team, community and planet with every decision we make. 

The Meaningful Travel Map, a partnership between Tourism Cares and VisitScotland, is a chance to shout about the good we do for our people, place and planet.  It spotlights your business to attract visitors and showcases Scotland as a responsible and sustainable destination. This will benefit us all now and in the future.

For Mercat, we featured the ‘Our Stories, Your City’ and ‘Day in Edinburgh’ projects in the Meaningful Travel Map. Each supports our local community, our Green Tourism GOLD achievements and our Living Wage commitment to our team.

Find out more about the Meaningful Travel Map

And finally, what’s in the pipeline for 2024?

We’ve just celebrated our second birthday and fantastic "firsts" for our project.

These include:

  • Four local schools with young people most likely to suffer from lack of opportunity in Edinburgh benefited from five-star tours free of charge.
  • A full minibus of GCP members enjoyed a day trip to Fife including mini-golf at Pittenweem and ice cream in Anstruther, to escape a busy Edinburgh in August.
  • We hosted a storytelling workshop. The craft of storytelling can help to unlock your voice and confidence. 10 GCP members had great fun in a half-day workshop to find their own words and style.
  • storytelling over supper. For the first time GCP relaxed over a meal and shared a tale with Mercat Storytellers.

This year will see us sharing the ‘Our Stories, Your City’ project story even more broadly, inspiring visitors to donate so we can host more GCP members and support local schools on tours free of charge.

mercat tour underground

Tour guide at Mercat's underground tour.

Related links