Javier Garcia wears many hats and stays very busy. He is the owner and local guide for Cooltourspain which offers street art and graffiti tours in Madrid. In addition, Garcia is the operations manager at one of the most important sustainable tourism companies in Madrid. Javier is also a backpacker who has fulfilled his dream of working at what he considers his hobby: painting. He got “kidnapped” by a graffiti can at the age of 12 and since then he knew his life was going to be closely related to the street art industry.
In addition to traveling to 29 countries on all continents, Mr. Garcia also speaks fluent English, conversational French, and beginner Swedish and Moroccan Arabic. This makes him well suited for relating to, and communicating with, travelers from all over the world. Javier, 29, added “90-95% of my guests come from different countries around the globe and English is the most frequent language at the tours.”
Garcia lived for a period in the United States where his work as a bilingual teacher in Odessa, Texas and Denver, Colorado gave him the opportunity to travel all around the country. He then returned to Spain to create a brand which combines unique tours with the culture of his community. His goal is to show guests Madrid in a different way, letting people experience it at the local community level, not from the perspective of a tourist.
How do the experiences you offer give guests a unique perspective on history, people or culture of Madrid?
Readers might have heard that there are some cities in Spain where locals are not welcoming visitors. Did you know that overpopulated experiences are one of the reasons why people are reading this type of articles in the news? Consequently, I thought about giving a solution to this problem.
I now run daily street art tours in Madrid where people can explore the city with a local perspective, avoiding the popular and traditional spots where the majority of tourists go. I explain the history of street art & graffiti and how this cultural movement started during the 80’s in the capital of Spain through a guided visit of Lavapiés, Embajadores, and La Latina neighborhoods. We visit the work of local artists and support the community by learning about the techniques that those freelancers use while painting and decorating facades and metal shutters.
How have the experiences that you offer evolved since their inception?
The first product I launched was called street art & history tour. There was an explanation of Madrid’s history followed by a street art walk. This experience was offered for free, based on tips, and groups of 20 to 40 people joined the tours I scheduled during the weekends. The majority of the participants were expats working in Spain as teachers or au-pairs.
In order to offer a better service, I passed on a survey to the attendees. My surprise was that the majority of the people suggested to forget about the history and talk more about the street art & graffiti in Madrid.
I heard and proceeded. After people’s submissions, I created the first street art tour in Madrid run in different languages. I now charged for the services and all of the Facebook reviews received are 5 out of 5. 90-95% of my guests come from different countries, looking for an alternative and exclusive experience in Madrid.
What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?
Being involved in the community requires time. It is not only a matter of getting to know the artists personally, but also checking hundreds of graffiti Instagram accounts on a daily basis. People are fascinated about my knowledge of the graffiti industry but what they don’t usually notice is that I spend hours and hours surfing the net for new content.
What do you wish every guest knew as they consider participating in the experiences you offer?
The street art community is huge! Artists, photographers, journalists… I wish all my guests had created a paste-up, stencil or graffiti themselves prior to their arrival. It would create such a huge impact as they would observe the artwork with a different point of view, trying to observe those creations as if they were theirs.
What is one travel trend that really excites you?
Meeting locals has turned into a travel trend for me. In addition to offering my tours through websites such as Get Your Guide and Viator, I also participate in street art tours all around the globe. Being introduced to a city through its underground locations by a local graffiti artists might be one of the most exciting things you can participate in when traveling.
What sets Cooltourspain apart from other, similar, organizations?
There are many organizations in Madrid aimed at the tourism industry but not a single one which offered street art and graffiti tours. Consequently, I consider that I am developing a sustainable way to sight-see my city. Also, there is a cultural project in Madrid which curates four street art festivals in Madrid. They offer street art guided visits from time to time but they only offer them in Spanish language.
What is one insiders tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?
Participating in volunteer workshops might be one of the most rewarding experiences that you can take a look at. Getting involved within the local community will give you a unique insight to how people live in the city you are visiting, what are their needs and how you could be more involved in it. You will also create such an impact by spending some hours of work aimed to help others: children, people at risk …
What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow?
SEO, both onsite and offsite. Don’t know what SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is? Then I would suggest you to check forobeta.com, one of the most important websites for web developers. This strategy [SEO] might be expensive if you don’t have the knowledge to do it yourself but it will position your brand in Google’s top list within a matter of 6 months. It just requires time that people find yourself when looking for the keyword your business is set in.
What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?
Posting daily feeds in different social media channels such as Facebook or Instagram has turned into a daily routine for me. Becoming successful in the online world can only be achieved in two ways: creating relevant content about the street art in Madrid on my website and sharing information with others about the latest trends in this cultural movement.
Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.
The second most active participants in my tours are people from Israel. Tourists from Tel Aviv frequently visit Madrid and I once received the following review after a visit:
“I came to Madrid many times because I love your city but it was not until the moment I participated in your experience that I truly discovered the underground parts of the city. A unique experience that I will never forget.”
I love my job, and I love it even more when receiving statements like this one.