Organisers of Galway's 2020 Capital of Culture celebrations are appealing to homeowners across the city and county to open their houses to visitors when the time comes. The housing scheme which is being labelled Tar Isteach - the Irish for come in - is aimed at promoting a cultural exchange between Galwegians and visitors from across the world.
There will be an estimated one million extra visitors to Galway as part of the 2020 celebrations and with the city's accommodation rate currently running at 73 per cent occupancy throughout the year, there will undoubtedly be a need for extra beds. However speaking to the Galway Advertiser, project manager Patricia Philbin said Tar Isteach is more about focusing on the cultural exchange aspect.
The core feature of the programme will be the promotion of reciprocated culture swaps between host ambassadors and guests. The bid outlines that this initiative will allow visitors to Galway to delve into the rich layers and idiosyncrasies of local culture that are not easily accessible but appeal greatly to the more adventurous and culturally curious. Hosts will be encouraged to share important aspects of Irish culture with their guests by introducing them to events, such as a traditional music session, and a local GAA match.
The 2020 team outlined their vision of how the scheme would work as part of their 100-page bid, which won the nod of approval from judges last month. The team stated their hope to attract the interest of a broad European and international audience by providing an unprecedented level of community hospitality and personalised immersion in Irish culture. "Ireland has a long and proud tradition of inviting international visitors to stay as guests in our communities. As hosts of the Special Olympics in 2003, our Host Towns programme saw 350,000 visitors from all over the world staying as guests in family homes around the country. Galway 2020 wishes to build upon Ireland’s reputation as the land of 100,000 welcomes – ‘céad míle fáilte’ – and to continue this tradition of community hospitality by inviting people from around the world to ‘Tar Isteach’ or ‘Come Inside’ as our guests."
The initiative will be modelled upon moneyless versions of modern house sharing technologies such as AirBnB and Home Exchange. Visitors to Galway will be invited to stay as guests in the family homes of those who agree to partake in the scheme.
In relation to the possible shortfall of accommodation for visitors in 2020, Ms Philbin said there will be extra beds coming on stream over the next few years.
"Tar Isteach will hopefully strengthen our absorption capacity, NUIG will have 500 extra self-catering units ready by 2020, and there are also a number of hotels planning extension works. Another thing to consider is that all events will not take place in the city - for example if something is happening in Ballinasloe, visitors could very feasibly stay somewhere like Athlone. The accommodation issue will be a challenge, but it is certainly nothing we cannot meet."