Since graduating as a Mercat Tour guide in 1998, Kat has enjoyed a long career as part of Edinburgh’s tourism community. In 2015, Kathleen became Managing Director of award-winning Mercat Tours and Mercat Tours International leading the team into its record-breaking 30th anniversary year. With a dedicated team, she has established Mercat Tours as market leader in quality, expert-led tours of Scotland’s capital, WWI and WWII battlefields of Europe.


Why is it important to Mercat Tours to be a part of the Scottish Tourism Alliance?


We believe that Scottish tourism achieves its best when we all work together. The journey towards sustainable, meaningful growth and success for all those touched by the tourism economy will have greatest impact and legacy when we make it together.


As a small, family business, being a member of the STA gives us a voice and representation at the highest level which is crucial in future-proofing our business. 


Membership also helps our team and visitors, as we benefit from insights and inspiration from across the industry. This allows us to plan Mercat’s future aligned with the broader national activity which brings greater impact and growth, as part of the whole Scotland brand.



What political and economic trends are affecting walking tour companies in Scotland?


As the world moves to become a more environmentally conscious place, more people are thinking about their carbon footprint when they travel. Luckily, walking tours are more or less carbon neutral, so this makes our storytelling experiences a really green way to see the sights of Edinburgh. As a Living Wage employer the reputation of Mercat’s ethics and values is an ever-increasing influence on visitors too.


In terms of political trends, obviously Brexit looms endlessly on the horizon, and all signs indicate this is affecting visitor numbers to the capital with many major attractions reporting a drop in footfall. However, the domestic and North American market will be our focus in 2020.


What does Mercat Tours bring to the Edinburgh tourism industry?


Mercat Tours offers history walks and ghost tours in Edinburgh’s Old Town, with exclusive access to the Blair Street Underground Vaults. As a family business which has run since 1985, the company is becoming as much a piece of history as the stories told by Mercat’s storytellers themselves.


Mercat Tours was born in an Edinburgh classroom. The simple belief that fired my father’s passion for teaching has been Mercat’s mantra since we began our storytelling experiences 35 years ago – “history is a damn good story, what it needs is a damn good telling”.


Today, with multiple awards under our belt and a steady 5-star VisitScotland rating, our tour guides consistently deliver an outstanding experience to visitors and locals alike. Where digital connectivity dominates almost every part of our lives, we’re delighted to preserve the past in the most traditional, human way: through the craft of storytelling, helping visitors make connections with our past and people – and our team!


In a world that’s constantly changing, we believe in sticking to our roots and keeping traditional storytelling alive. Many of our visitors have described us as custodians of the past.


What does 2020 look like for Mercat Tours?


We predict a surge in interest in our Tour & Tasting experience - a walking tour exploring the legal (and illegal!) history of whisky in Edinburgh followed by a guided whisky tasting in our atmospheric candlelit underground cellar. We also expect to see increased numbers on our Edinburgh Outlander Experience, thanks to the start of season 5 airing in February.


This year we plan to continue investing in our team, since we believe a happy, nurtured team is a team that’ll give visitors the very best experience of our product. In 2017, we became the first walking tour operator in Scotland to secure Living Wage employer accreditation and we’re committed to paying the Living Wage. We also invest 10% of our annual profits in team development, providing access to several training courses, and there’s a fully funded three-month training programme for guides, which is accredited by Napier University.


2020 is an exciting year for Mercat Tours and in Scotland in general, with lots happening, and we’re delighted to continue working in partnership with the STA and all its members.


If you and colleagues from your business would like to attend the STA Signature Conference 2020, Scotland’s national tourism conference on 4th and 5th of March at Glasgow’s SEC and be in the room for the launch of Scotland’s future tourism strategy and get the latest industry insights, please visit the STA website to book your ticket -