Bucharest Greeters is an informal organization through which anyone can be a guide or can register on the site as a tourist, provided they have time on their hands and are willing to do that.
What does a bird’s eye view of Bucharest look like? Which are the capital city’s hiddenmost streets? Where can we have a delicious lemonade, or which is the perfect place to go to if you want to eat some grilled minced meat rolls or some pretzels; you can find the answer to such questions if you contact the Bucharest Greeters.
Bucharest Greeters co-founder Irina Botnari told us where they had got such an idea.
Irina Botnari: ”We got the idea as we benefited from such a service abroad. We discovered a network of Greeters in Tel-Aviv, while we were visiting that wonderful city, and we thought we would like to discover it a little bit off the beaten track. Searching for free walking tours, we came across some greeters. We were so glad we could discover the city in a different way, we met somebody and instead of two or three hours that person was supposed to spend with us, the person spent a whole day, showing us around through that wonderful city, in a way we would have never discovered it by ourselves. When we got back to Bucharest, it dawned upon us that such an initiative was needed for Bucharest as well; we did our research quickly, we found out it was actually an international network, with more than 100 programs on offer worldwide and we took all the steps we had to take; there are two co-founders, myself and my colleague Filip Bunea. It is a volunteer project and it also took off thanks to the help we got from a couple of friends who designed the graphics for our site, also taking care of other organizational issues. I was in charge of communication/PR, and Filip was in charge of the technical matters. We started the project in April, and then the fun began, as we did not know how the project was going to work for Bucharest, how tourists were supposed to be coming, how we were going to attract them, but everything went our way quite all right.”
There are several tour operators offering Bucharest city sightseeing tours. One of the strengths of Bucharest Greeters is that we provide a free-of-charge service, and we offer attractions that are perfectly tailored to meet tourists’ needs. So since the very day the project was launched, tourists have applied to the services of the association. More details - from Irina Botnari again.
Irina Botnari: “We’ve had a great many tourists in the meantime; there were just a few in the first two months, but right after the summer more and more people have applied to us. Tourists can find us on bucharestgreeters.ro, the moment they want to visit Bucharest they can fill in a form writing what they would like to visit or what they’re mainly interested in, specifying the days of their arrival; the moment we receive the filled-in form we act as matchmakers between tourists and greeters, which means that for the group of tourists we find a greeter with the same interests and the same availability. The moment the tourist arrives in Bucharest, she or he meets our greeter, they have a walk, get to know each other; from all we know, people make friends in many cases, as this is also the underlying idea: we want to show a friendly Bucharest.”
When we asked Irina Botnari about the Greeters’ age, she told us that in the beginning they expected students would be the ones to act as Greeters. In fact, a lot more people wanted such an experience for themselves.
Irina Botnari: ”Greeters are youngsters, by and large, but the age bracket includes people between 18 to 56. We do not have an age limit for greeters, since tourists are of various ages, from youngsters to seniors who are for instance on a tour across Europe. We also had tourists with babies. Everyone is interested to promote their city, and if they like Bucharest, they also want to show it to foreigners, and if they have a little bit of spare time and are willing to invest two or three hours a month in that, maybe less, they register with us. Right now we have more than 100 greeters. Greeters and tourists devise an itinerary they agree upon. As far as we could see, in the summertime, tourists were delighted with our beer gardens and parks and restaurants offering a hammock and a lemonade. And during winter, the walk merely includes two or three attractions and for the rest of their stay, people go to a café or a pub for a hot cup of tea, a meal, a tale.”
The very moment they’re presented with a demand, for instance to get people acquainted with Bucharest through its cultural assets and leisure opportunities, Greeters make a survey of the cultural events that are ongoing for that particular period of time, so that they can get access to the most attractive offers.
Irina Botnari: ”In the summer, we took tourists to all sorts of exhibitions, concerts, we recommended to them the Enescu Festival for this autumn. Young people are interested in events tailored for their age bracket, we took them to the book street, to “B-FIT in the street” (the international theater festival) which was held in the summer, we took them to the jazz Festival”.
As for Greeters, they never stop here. After the success they had enjoyed in Bucharest, the idea crossed their mind to expand. So in December 2014, the service was launched in Cluj, central Romania, while for 2015 they plan to expand to Sibiu and Timisoara and Brasov, in a bid to attract as many tourists as possible, who can make use of their services in the near future.