Mercat Tours – Leading the way for the Living Wage in the tourism industry

Founded by a history teacher with a passion for bringing the past to life, who believed that "History is a damn good story, what it needs is a damn good telling", Mercat Tours is a family business which has been running award-winning ghost and history tours in Edinburgh for over 35 years. They are the first and largest Living Wage accredited walking tour company in Scotland and also organize expert-led tours of WWI and WWII battlefields in Europe.

Kat Brogan, the MD of Mercat Tours and Mercat Tours International since 2015, took some time out to talk to us about why paying the real Living Wage is important to them.

Mercat tour guide stood under an umbrella with two tourists next to St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, all smiling

Mercat Tours is led by the desire to look after people, building community before profit and paying a real Living Wage is just one of the ways we live our values. After paying the Living Wage rates for a number of years we decided to formally accredit as we wanted to officially demonstrate our commitment to our team and have a benchmark that we could share and celebrate publicly.

The Real Living Wage is about Real Living – supporting a happy, healthy and fulfilling life.  Paying a real Living Wage is just one of the ways we foster a positive and supportive workplace culture. It’s about taking care of the people you have and nurturing them. We’ve also found that paying the real Living Wage allows us to better attract and retain talent. When we surveyed the people who responded to one of our recruitment campaigns the fact that we are a Living Wage employer was one of the top reasons people had for applying.

These are just a few of the positive responses we’ve had from the team about our Living Wage accreditation:

“Working for a company that pays the Living Wage makes me feel that they care about me, and that they care about my life and that I’m being treated fairly”. Nicky Harrison, Mercat Storyteller.

“The Living Wage shows that the relationship between me and my employer is more than just purely economic, it means that I’ve got respect and a mutual value that I share with my employer, it means that I can live happily and not live in anxiety and stress about getting to the end of the month. It makes me proud to work and hopefully a better worker as well.”, Rory Scott, Mercat Support Team.

“What I like as a manager, as well as being an employee and receiving it, is that I recruit a lot of our storytellers and it gives me great pride to know that I will be offering these people a Living Wage as an employer. I think it attracts people to the job and it’s a wonderful thing to offer’. Tania Dron, Mercat Tours Creative Development Manager.

Woman standing and gesticulating whilst telling a story to a group of people in a pub at night

Though the tourism and hospitality industry doesn’t have the best reputation for fair wages, there are many businesses out there doing amazing work to improve working conditions and it can be a democratic and inspiring sector in which to develop a career. It has the power to create diverse, inclusive teams that attract passionate people to work and equally supports communities to thrive. Our new, ground-breaking ‘Our Stories, Your City’ project reconnects the disconnected vulnerable communities of Edinburgh with their city through storytelling, paid for by visitors’ donations, demonstrating tourism as a force for good.

The advice I’d give to anyone thinking of becoming Living Wage accredited is to focus on the good work that you do already to support your team, realizing all the progress that you’ve already made can make accreditation feel less daunting. For example we support our team with flexible working and job shares and the Living Wage is just an extension of that. For us, it’s part of providing a respectful and fulfilling work environment. We listen to employees and give them a voice to ensure they feel happy and engaged. We look after them and they look after us.

Kat Brogan is a champion of Living Wage and Fair Work ideals and invests time working with SDS, DYW and schools to connect young people with their city and consider careers in tourism. Kat continues to guide WWI Battlefield tours to keep in touch with young people and because of her own passion for history and storytelling.

Kat will be speaking at the Living Wage Places Network Event in Edinburgh on Thursday 25th May.