How Invisible Edinburgh’s Walking Tours Help Scotland’s Homeless
One of the best ways to get in touch with any culture is by getting to know the locals, and getting an insider’s perspective on each destination. In Scotland, Visit.org partner Invisible Edinburgh offers experiences that do just that.
Not only does Invisible Edinburgh lead walking tours around Scotland’s capital, ensuring that visitors get a fun, unique, and memorable experience — this organization also provides sustainable livelihoods for people who have been affected by homelessness. By booking an activity with them, travelers get to support their mission, while also having a meaningful interaction with the beneficiaries — who happen to be the tour guides themselves!
Learn more about Invisible Edinburgh, and how to get involved with them, in our recent Q&A with their founder, Zakia Moulaoui:
What led to the creation of your Invisible Edinburgh?
I had worked for a long time with an organisation called The Homeless World Cup Foundation and had realised there is big stigma around homelessness and homeless people. However, I had also realised that homelessness does and can happen to anyone, and that it does not only have one face.
I had been thinking about creating a project that would raise awareness around homelessness and would educate people around it. You can hear more about my experience there and my ethos around homelessness in this talk I did for Creative Mornings Edinburgh.
At the end of 2015, I went to Greece. And while in Athens, I took a walking tour with Shedia (also a Visit.org partner) and was really inspired. I knew this is what I needed to do in Scotland! Once I got back I started working on it and Invisible Cities was born. You can learn more about the inspiration for the project here.
What has been the most hard-fought achievement of Invisible Edinburgh so far?
We do what we do to support and help our guides be the best they can be. Recruiting guides and managing them day-to-day can be really difficult. People face different situations, and it can be quite chaotic, but it is very rewarding to be part of the conversations they create with the public, and see people really moved and interested by what they say.
Additionally, we are working very hard to be recognised by the tourism industry here in Scotland. Being nominated for an Award by Visit Scotland, though we didn’t win, was a great achievement and something everyone was proud of. It is important we are not only a great but also a great tour company!
What challenges does Invisible Edinburgh face in achieving its mission?
Our guides come and go. As they use this as an opportunity for development and growth, it is normal to see them move onto to other things. It is a great achievement for them and for us, but makes it hard to continue offering high quality tours as we need to recruit and train more guides.
Raising awareness about our organisation on a budget (we are a social enterprise) is also a challenge!
How does sustainable tourism help Invisible Edinburgh’s mission?
People who come on our tours are concerned about the world and want to know about social justice and the support provided for homeless people. We promote what we do as an activity that has local impact and supports the community locally. We have a strong place in the social enterprise scene in Edinburgh/Scotland and we are trying to develop our profile in the tourism sector!
Do you see changes in visitors’ mindsets at the end of the tour?
Definitely. Through a survey, we ask them if their visit has had an impact on their thinking.
- 100% say they know more about Edinburgh’s ecosystem
- 97% say they know more about homelessness in Scotland
- 92% say the tour has changed their opinion on homelessness
These are amazing figures!
What else would you like to share about the work of your organization with the Visit.org audience?
Running a social enterprise can be hard and we struggle with funding, promotion and finding the time to do everything, but we do not give up. We run other campaigns that are not tourism-related, such as the Street Barber Edinburgh, which we are able to organise through the profits of our tours.