One of Scotland’s leading tourism businesses has revealed it is bucking the trend of workers leaving the country because of Brexit fears.
At a time when EU net migration to the UK has fallen to its lowest level in almost six years and major businesses are leaving the UK because of Brexit, Mercat Tours have already recruited 15 new employees from the European Union (EU) in 2019.
Based in Scotland’s historic capital of Edinburgh, the award-winning storytellers have 10 more EU staff than the same period in the previous year.
Indeed employees from the EU represent 33% of Mercat’s total workforce – with staff coming from a wide range of countries including Germany, France, Ireland, Italy, Spain and beyond. This compares to figures from the Department for Work and Pensions that show there were a total of 37,944 registrations from EU citizens across Scotland in the year ending September 2018. That’s down from 43,148 the year before and 45,265 in 2016.
The new starts frequently cite Mercat Tour’s world-renowned reputation for great historical storytelling and their exceptional fair working practices as reasons for wanting to work with the walking tour operator. Many also speak of their great love of Edinburgh and its fascinating history, particularly its dark underground past.
Lauren Mulvihill from Ireland, who started working for Mercat in January this year, said: ‘Mercat has a huge number of EU staff working for them, and it’s very easy for me to see what attracts people to the company. Firstly they’re living wage employers who are very committed to ethical business practices.
‘As an employee I get the feeling that I’m genuinely valued within the company. Mercat also encourages you to play to your strengths, whether that be with languages or people skills or more niche interests. It’s an excellent job if you’re looking to learn, gain confidence, and meet people from all over the world. I feel really passionate about the stories we’re telling and I can’t wait to start sharing them with others.’
Sabrina Willekens from Germany added: ‘I was particularly attracted to the company for their extensive and ongoing training programme, opportunity to gain externally accredited qualification, and the good hourly rate for my work. So far, I have experienced support and enthusiasm to fulfil these promises, and I am excited to be starting my journey with Mercat to become a good storyteller and give back to the company and the Edinburgh and Scottish tourism product.
‘I enjoy delivering something exciting to visitors and enhancing their day and experience of Scotland. If I can see happy, engaged, bright faces, and sparkly eyes on my tours, or mildly scared and involved for the ghost tours, I will have achieved this.’
Of course some of the employees do still have concerns about living here after Brexit, as Sabrina explained: ‘It is hard not to worry about the future and where this future might happen. However Mercat Tours has helped me in a sense of offering me a working contract that, together with my other employment, will give me a status of eligibility and purpose in this country.’
Helena said she had been reassured by how welcome and accepted she felt in Scotland, but added: ‘I’m still feeling uncertain about any future restrictions on travel and work. Luckily Mercat employ lots of other EU citizens and they spend a lot of resources on training us, so I definitely feel valued here.’
Mercat Tours managing director Kat Brogan said: ‘Just like Scottish tourism, our business thrives on people. Our staff are the heart of our business. Our rich and diverse workforce from all over the world play a vital role in helping us extend the warm welcome that Scotland is renowned for and support us in making a real impact on the tourism economy in Edinburgh.
‘As Brexit approaches, it is essential for businesses like ours to do all that we can to ensure EU citizens continue to feel welcomed and valued in our country. By investing in our team, our business and the wider economy benefits.’
Last Thursday, the company won the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s Responsible Business Award.
Speaking of the win Kat said: ‘We are delighted to have been presented with the Responsible Business Award. We always strive to ensure that our investments in our staff and community initiatives have a positive wider impact on our local environment and our the wider economy in Edinburgh.
‘We are particularly proud to have attained Investors in People in record time, claimed the first five-star award from VisitScotland and be described as ‘pioneers’ by Green Tourism Business Scheme.”
‘We always keen to help coordinate projects across the tourism sector to try and multiply the effect for all people, at all levels; visitors, staff, environment and community.’
For more information visit www.mercattours.com.