Dublin has been voted friendliest city in Europe by travellers on TripAdvisor not once, but twice. And while most Dubliners would have simply toasted to the not-so-shocking news with a pint, author and former publisher of The Dubliner magazine Trevor White got thinking: what if this famous friendliness could be somehow bottled?
"Over three million people visit Dublin each year, and the reason why many of them come here is to meet friendly locals," he explains.
Trevor wanted to harness this friendliness into something firm, something that was open to all travellers. And so, City of a Thousand Welcomes was born.
The birth of a new Dublin experience
The concept was to bring visitors and Dubliners together "in a fun, structured, safe way, at no cost to either party," says Trevor.
In March 2011, he put out the call: one thousand Dubliners were needed to be ambassadors for their city by bringing a visitor out for a pint or cup of coffee.
Over 2,500 people lined up. Well-known faces were among the ranks, including artist Graham Knuttel, former Miss World Rosanna Davison, and Senator David Norris.
There were people from every walk of life – historians, journalists, teachers, writers, and those who simply loved their city, like biologist Aoife in our video.
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The very first person to sign up was New Yorker Alexandra Miletta, who had read about the not-for-profit scheme in an inflight magazine. She was paired with Tourism Ireland blogger Aileen Power.
"Alexandra, her mother Maureen and I were all introduced by the organiser Simon at Welcomes HQ, before pottering down to Bewley's for a coffee", explains Aileen. "The ladies were over on their holidays, so I was keen to impart some juicy local tips.
"The map came out and I started circling my must-dos: the National Gallery's Caravaggio, St Stephen's Green, Kilkenny Design. The hour flew by. The next day, Alexandra emailed to thank me. And I was genuinely delighted to have added to their trip."
A successful year
Since its inception, the idea has received great reviews from people and publications all over the world. The Sydney Morning Herald put City of a Thousand Welcomes as their number one best free thing to do in Europe. US travel guru Rick Steves also praised the scheme for its "Dubliner’s-eye-view of the city" and giving "an inside angle through a personal connection".
And anyone browsing on TripAdvisor will find a pretty enthusiastic responses, too:
"The best Dublin experience we had."
"An absolutely brilliant concept."
"Every city should replicate the City of a Thousand Welcomes."
Maybe every city will one day have its own version. In fact, White eventually wants to export the idea worldwide, "where it would forever be known as 'that Irish thing'".
Until then, your pint is waiting in Dublin.