Tourists' love of Scottish history pays off for capital firm

An international fascination with Scottish history and culture is paying off for one Edinburgh tour business, with record numbers keen to explore the capital.

Nicola Wright and Hannah Broadley of Mercat Tours pose next to a statue of poet Robert Fergusson in Edinburgh's Canongate. The firm enjoyed a record 2016. Picture: Phil Wilkinson/JP Resell

Tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop hailed the appeal of history while visiting Mercat Tours in the High Street today. The long-established business offers guided tours of the Old Town in several languages.

Mercat reported record turnover and footfall in 2016 with a 35 per cent increase in walking tours of the capital in December, compared to the previous year.

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To satisfy demand, the company has increased staffing and now employs an international team from ten countries offering tours in Spanish, French and German.

VisitScotland’s 2015 visitor survey found that Scotland’s history motivated 32 per cent of international visitors to travel to Scotland.

Mercat enjoyed a strong 2016 despite the number of tourists visiting Scotland from Europe dropping by seven per cent in the three months after the Brexit vote, according to official figures released this month.

But the negative effect of Brexit on the pound has driven North American tourists, with the number of visitors from across the Atlantic growing by 36 per cent in trips and 57 per cent in expenditure compared to the same period in 2015.

Hyslop said: “Scotland inspires and captivates the imagination of international visitors through our history, heritage and archaeology.

“Evidence of our history is edged in our landscape, from surviving Neolithic tombs and homes, to carved stones, to medieval castles, renaissance palaces and some of the finest surviving Georgian urban-planning anywhere in the world.

“With an estimated 50 million people worldwide claiming Scottish ancestry, attracting visitors to Scotland to experience our country’s history is a growing and important market.”

Mercat Tours managing director Kathleen Brogan said: “We believe it is simple – with a warm welcome we keep the traditional art of storytelling alive whilst making memories that endure long after visitors return home.

“With world-famous heritage, and reputation as a safe, high quality destination, Edinburgh continues to appeal to international visitors.”