Mercat Tours - Listening to visitors

Mercat Tours talk about how they used visitor feedback to meet their varied customer needs, and offer a better visitor experience.

Misterios de Ultratumba

In 2011, Mercat Tours launched “Misterios de Ultratumba” a version of their walking tours of underground Edinburgh specifically aimed at the Spanish market.  

The intelligence that informed this development has come from two sources: source of origin data showing an increase in Spanish bookings and direct requests from Spanish visitors.

Uptake of these tours has grown steadily, they are now offered four times a week with visitor numbers averaging 25 per tour 65 per cent capacity generating a good yield.  

Native Spanish guides within the team developed the tour theme, content and route in order to reflect the specific interests and cultural references which appeal to the Spanish customer but have been given a complete make-over by Spanish staff, adapted to reflect Spanish interests and cultural references.

How to provide international visitors with a 5-star experience obviously presents an ongoing issue to any operator providing guided tours. While the level of Spanish visitors had increased markedly, they generally did not speak such good English as other Europeans and so were getting the least out of the tours. 

A pilot tour was redesigned, further refined after testing, Spanish guides were trained, and marketing kicked off which focused on building a relationship with trade partners specialising in the Spanish market. 

Social media was also used, and graphic panels publicise the tours at the Mercat Cross to attract chance trade. Head of Development Kat Brogan also keeps a close eye on the schedule of direct Spanish flights using Edinburgh Airport.

Kat comments: 

“A Spanish language feedback form is distributed to guests and the visitor comments have been extremely positive, giving ideas for further refinements. Feedback is also solicited from the trade partners.  

"The tours are now a regular and growing part of the business: four more guides are being trained and a Spanish speaking Quality Assurance assessor is ensuring that Mercat’s quality standards are maintained."

Descend and discover

In 2012, Mercat launched a new innovation: self-guided tours supported by onsite interpretation, AV and a booklet.   

Frances Mann, Head of Product had been listening to visitors who were asking to visit the vaults at times when tours are not normally operated, and were requesting a short version as they only had half an hour or so to spare.  

Additional requests were being received for small children to be accommodated and there was also great demand for foreign language versions of the tours. To accommodate these requests, Frances suggested the development of a self-guided tour of the vaults to operate in the mornings before the vaults open for scheduled guided tours - a complete diversification from existing practice.  

There are concerns as to whether this lower-priced model might dilute the existing market rather than adding to it, and so a subtle marketing programme has been implemented to overcome this.

Investment has been required at the visitor centre and in interpretation in the vaults, also in the production of a self-guided booklet including a map and explanation in four languages.

The self-guided option is now operating successfully four hours every morning, utilising otherwise spare capacity – a successful new product the idea for which emerged directly from listening to visitors.