Cali Cultural Tours:
From curiosity to
a successful tour
At the heart of Cali, a Colombian city brimming with vibrant history and delectable street food, is Juan, owner and tour guide of Cali Cultural Tours. His thriving business celebrates the rich culture and traditions of this enchanting city. In this interview, we dive into Juan's journey as he shares the inception of his business, the challenges he's faced, and his vision for the future.
Discovering a vocation in tourism
Juan's journey into the world of tourism started a year ago, following a trip to Mexico inspired by the Disney movie “Coco.” His mother's desire to experience Dia de Muertos led them to explore the vibrant culture of the city through guided tours.
After the trip, Juan returned to Cali with a newfound curiosity about what tourists were doing in his own city. He saw an opportunity to offer unique tours of Cali, focusing on its rich culinary traditions, which led to the creation of Cali Cultural Tours.
Juan shared his passion for the industry, stating, “I like to tell people, my clients especially, that I found in tourism a vocation, meaning something I like to do, something I'm good at, and something that I can make a job out of.” What started as a curiosity about what tourists were doing in Cali turned into a successful endeavor that has brought joy to both locals and visitors.
“When you work with local businesses, we all win. Tourists get a nice experience discovering authentic culture, and I get a job while taking business to local entrepreneurs. ”
The joy of guiding and connecting
Reflecting on his first tour, the street food tour -a favorite among his clients- Juan admits, “It was a bit like ‘fake it till you make it.’” However, his passion and dedication shone through, and the feedback from tourists was overwhelmingly positive.
Juan's approach to running Cali Cultural Tours goes beyond showcasing the city; it involves connecting with locals. “When you work with locals, we all win. Tourists get a nice experience discovering authentic culture, and I get a job while taking business to local entrepreneurs,” he explains.
Many of the companies he collaborates with are family-run, adding an extra layer of authenticity to the experience. He emphasizes, “People like the authenticity of local culture, and really appreciate that I work with such businesses.”
“The biggest learning so far is that I love tourism, but I also love being independent. ”
Challenges of running a tour business
The journey of entrepreneurship is not without its hurdles, and Juan emphasizes that getting clients is one of the main challenges in the tourism industry. Being present on tour platforms has been instrumental in jump-starting his business, however, he highlights the need to diversify his client base to ensure long-term sustainability.
Another interesting challenge is balancing independence with growth. “The biggest learning so far is that I love tourism, but I also love being independent,” Juan reflects. While working with a larger company seemed like a good idea at first, he realized that it took away the joy he found in tourism.
The essence of being a city tour guide lies in flexibility, adaptability, and, most importantly, the ability to establish a personal connection with clients. These were values he cherished and couldn't compromise on.
Becoming a local influencer
Juan is exploring multiple avenues for marketing, from Facebook and Instagram to the possibility of using TikTok. Finding the right marketing strategy is an ongoing challenge. In particular, experimenting with social media advertising has been a daunting and discouraging experience for him.
However, Juan has leveraged social media to his advantage, building a personal brand through Instagram. His daily posts and stories have attracted not only local followers but also those planning to visit Cali. His engaging content and personal touch make tourists feel more connected to the city and its culture.
His Instagram presence serves as a catalog of his tours while the way he connects with his audience has led some to describe him as a local influencer. “A couple of friends have told me, ‘Hey, you're a good influencer, you should keep doing that.’ The general comment is to expand on the influencer style of me talking and recording,” he shares.
“You don't have to cater to everyone; instead, you just have to find your niche and work with it. ”
The importance of being unique
For those looking to venture into the world of entrepreneurship, Juan offers valuable advice: “There's as many things you can do as there is sand on the beach.” He advises to focus on your strengths and unique offerings.
According to Juan, “You don't have to cater to everyone; instead, you just have to find your niche and work with it. And it will be a universe on its own and you will get to shine as a star in your own little universe and people will enjoy that.”
The human connection with Vev
The theme of human connection runs deep Cali Cultural Tours. Juan emphasizes that personalization and small group tours are key elements of his success, as tourists seek authentic, personalized experiences. It's a principle that he extends to his work with Vev. “Your call, this call, made me choose to work with Vev,” says Juan.
Vev’s online reservation system entered Juan's life at a crucial juncture. As he sought to diversify his sources of clients, he decided to build his own website. His first experience with Vev led to tangible results – a booking within just four days.
Juan highlights the platform's simplicity and visually appealing designs. “It's visually striking in terms of being very simple, but not just simple. You can make it beautiful very easily with Vev. That's what I like the most,” he shares.
“It's visually striking in terms of being very simple, but not just simple. You can make it beautiful very easily with Vev. ”
The future of Cali Cultural Tours
Juan's vision for the future is one of growth and innovation. While he can't predict precisely where Cali Cultural Tours will be in five years, he's clear about his strategic focus: expanding his team, embracing innovation in his tour offerings, and deepening connections with local businesses. He sees himself as an entrepreneur in the ever-evolving world of tourism and aims to formalize his business further through continued education in tourism.
Juan beautifully sums up his journey and the spirit of his business, saying, “Cali Cultural Tours has been for me following my heart, being able to listen to myself and taking decisions in that regard. At least for me, it has resulted in happiness and freedom.”
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