In a continuation of the Odd Jobs Series, I am highlighting expat tour guides who have found their niche in Buenos Aires. Last time, I interviewed Jonny and Marina from Graffitimundo.
Meet Chance from BA LOCAL.
BA LOCAL provides private tours, including city tours, off-the-beaten-path tours, shopping tours, art tours, and Jewish tours.
What is your tourism niche in Buenos Aires?
BA LOCAL gives private tours and we cater our tours to the individual client. On rare occasions we will give a large group tour, but it will still be a private group.
And we seem to attract people who want to spend time not only learning about the city, but learning about what it is like to live as an expat in this city. A lot of people dream of living in Buenos Aires, not just visiting it. And that explains why so many of our clients like to take a little time to stop and have a coffee, beer, or glass (or bottle) of wine and even a meal and just talk about what this city is really like in addition to learning its history and seeing its monuments.
Where are you from and how did you end up living in Buenos Aires?
I’m from Dallas, Texas, but I was living in Los Angeles, CA when I first came to Buenos Aires to “take 2 months of Spanish classes”.
I was looking into Costa Rica because I liked the idea of studying Spanish in the morning and surfing all afternoon. But I had a couple of really good friends who were planning a trip to BA and suggested I come along, crash on the couch at the apartment they were renting, and THEN start my 2 months. It didn’t quite work out like that, but that was the domino that moved my focus to Argentina and Buenos Aires in particular.
What did you do before jumping into tours?
In LA I was “working in the entertainment industry”, and when I say that, I mean I was making coffee, answering phones, buying groceries, picking up lunch, taking out the trash, and assembling IKEA furniture for people who did interesting things in the entertainment industry.
Somehow I was able to put the glamour of “The Business” behind me and come to Buenos Aires. One day a lady from a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) training school came to speak to the people in my Spanish class, and I decided to give teaching English a try as a way to make a little money so I could extend my stay here. Growing up with both parents being Journalism majors, attending an anal private school, having an older brother who not only majored in English at an Ivy League school, but who also earned a Masters in the formation of the English language, my grammar was already pretty good.
So when I realized that people were going to pay me to correct their grammar and tell them better ways to say things, I jumped at the opportunity to get paid for being the annoying know-it-all that I already was.
And giving tours is yet another step on the stairway to me making a living by getting paid to “be me.”
How did you get the idea for your business?
I had trained to give tours under a lady here in Buenos Aires. I realized that she didn’t have enough business for me to earn much money, so I started trying to find my own work. I ended up giving a lot of tours for Christina Wiseman at BA LOCAL.
She had started her company a few years before, had gotten her company in Frommer’s Guide to Buenos Aires and the New York Times as well as some other travel magazines, and when combined with referrals, she had a lot of business but not enough time. This led to Christina finally asking me if I wanted to become her business partner at BA LOCAL in addition to giving tours.
Why is your tourism niche successful?
Mainly because I am so freaking awesome.
Full of knowledge, able to read people’s interests on the fly, and very entertaining. These things didn’t always go over so well in school with some of my teachers, but they go over extremely well when I’m out on the town with my clients.
And then of course you’ve got the referrals. Word of mouth is huge for our company and many people contact us because they have a friend or relative who took a tour with us in the past and they want to experience the city with BA LOCAL. And not just on my tours, but also our Art Tours and Shopping Tours that are given by other guides.
What do you love most about Buenos Aires?
I love that you can do anything!
Rules kind of apply here, but then again, they don’t completely. When starting a business here, you just start your business and then, after it gets going, you make it official. It’s kind of like the US was many decades ago in that respect.
Especially among the expats I know in Buenos Aires, there is a feeling that possibilities are around every corner.
Why should someone traveling to Buenos Aires contact you for a tour?
I would say that I’m the kind of guide that makes you want to take tours.
The personal attention is what sets us apart from others. I know other guides here that are very good and we sometimes pass work to each other when we are booked, but come on… 100% of my clients can’t be wrong. People just really enjoy tours with BA LOCAL.
And when drivers (of both hired cars and taxis) tell me, “You know so much more about this city than other guides”, I get the feeling that my excellence doesn’t go completely unnoticed.
Go take a tour!
Get more details about a tour with Chance or his other guides on the BA LOCAL website. I have learned so much about this city from Chance, and you will appreciate his knowledge, his honesty, and his sense of humor.