Talk about carving a successful niche for oneself! Burnt out from years of corporate fundraising in the US non-profit sector, Eric Wichner found himself vacationing with a friend in Mexico City in December 2010. Little did he know that a quick search for things to do on Trip Advisor—his first ever—would completely reshape his life in Puerto Vallarta, for the better. A foodie at heart, Wichner stumbled upon Lesley Tellez’s successful Eat Mexico Taco Tours. “Before the tour was over, I knew I had to do this in Puerto Vallarta,” he remembers.
Already familiar with many “local” eateries in Puerto Vallarta’s colorful Emiliano Zapata neighborhood, Wichner approached a handful of them, quickly putting together two food tours—daytime and evening—and founding his company, Vallarta Eats (www.vallartaeats.com
). Relying on a staff of four bilingual tour guides, tourists from all walks of life set out to explore the Emiliano Zapata streets on foot, making stops at preselected venues and street stands, getting a taste of their food and a glimpse into an authentic Mexican neighborhood. “1500 people have done the tour in the last 16 months,” he reports. “And we did more tours in July and August this year than we did in February—surprisingly, a lot of Asian tourists during the summer months,” he adds.
Many of his clients are “interested and interesting,” first-time, visiting foodies from Nuevo Vallarta all-inclusive resorts looking for a holding hand as they journey through an authentic Mexican neighborhood. “Once the comfort level is established, they’ll ask hard questions, like ‘What is the minimum wage here?’ and so forth. And we frequently find them eating at the same places the day after.”