A provider of spooky tour guides is set for post-pandemic expansion after undergoing a digital transformation during lockdown with help from Scotland’s data innovation centre.

Mercat Tours, Edinburgh’s oldest walking tour, teamed up with The Data Lab’s TORCH Business Advisory Service in a bid to modernise its services and bounce back better from Covid.

Coronavirus restrictions have had a devastating impact on the tourism industry in Scotland, and businesses in the capital have been worst hit.

The partnership saw Mercat Tour’s operations updated to replace multiple “disjointed and time consuming systems” with just one – making the company “fit for future”.

The team also upskilled, with eight employees attending the centre’s ‘data skills for work’ programme.

In addition, staff were provided with support through The Data Lab’s new digital community, which provides access to peers and data experts.

Kat Brogan, managing director at Mercat Tours, said: “Like many growing businesses, a number of our processes have, in time, become disjointed and time consuming. We identified lockdown as an opportunity to make significant changes to certain methods, and The Data Lab helped us streamline and consolidate.

“This change is providing us with brand new insights to support strategic decision making. Our teams are also spending less time on administrative work and more time on the visitor experience, which is what we’re all passionate about. Our previous systems were fit for purpose – but now we feel fit for future.”

Brian Hills, deputy chief executive at The Data Lab, added: “A lot of businesses are looking at what the next steps are as we emerge from the pandemic. Crucial for most will be looking at how digital processes that may have been put in place during lockdown, can be built upon and streamlined going forward.

“We are delighted to have worked on this with Mercat Tours, and to have helped their team improve their skills and confidence to leverage data. We would encourage businesses facing similar challenges to get in touch with our TORCH team for support.”

Following the engagement with TORCH, The Data Lab provided access to a grant that supported Mercat Tours to collaborate with a Scottish supplier to implement the recommended improvements.

As lockdown and travel restrictions have eased, Mercat Tours is now back up and running to offer walking tours and ghost tours of Edinburgh.

This Data Lab initiative is funded through Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government, and is a direct result of the £11.8 million funding for digital technology that the Scottish Government announced in 2020 to help with economic recovery.