citizen engagement
Smart City Platform

Smart Buddy: A platform for tourists visiting Santander to receive recommendations from its local residents

Team: CityMakers

Smart Buddy is a platform for citizens of Santander and international tourists visiting Santander. It allows Santander’s local residents to make recommendations of events and places to tourists visiting the city. It was co-created by City Makers and citizens of Santander as OrganiCity experiment.

The team

Key members were Marta (communications), Ivan (UX) and Alejandro (back-end), Álvaro (front-end), Karen (design), Alejandro (tourism information and participation) and Sito (coordination).

“The objective of Smart Buddy was to involve neighbours in the tourism management of their city; by showing venues that are often not displayed on tourism city maps or other internet platforms to foster the economic development of these less touristy areas.”


Public project launch: More than 60 people from neighbourhood associations attended the project launch, including the Santander Councillor of Tourism (Gema Igual) and the Councillor for Neighbourhoods and Participation (Carmen Ruiz).

Initial citizen participation workshops: We held two stakeholder workshops with 20 neighbourhood associations to gather content for the platform. 33 people attended in total. The platform was developed based on the information they provided.

‘In-house’ meetings: We organised several ‘area-specific’ meetings in different neighbourhoods to test and iterate the platform with real users from the area.

Student feedback: When the platform was almost ready, we met with the students from the Tourism University Altamira to receive their feedback and gather more information about Santander.

Experiment outcome

Smart Buddy Platform: The platform allows tourists to explore ‘alternative’ areas, events, routes and points of interest in Santander. It Includes almost 200 points of interest and 10 routes from our public participation meetings with neighbourhood associations and students.

Map of Santander: Paper maps including local recommendations of 4 sub-areas in Santander are designed, printed and are distributed by the tourism office and neighbourhood associations.

Lessons learned

    1. Public participation requires time and diversity
      We decided to collaborate only with two kind of groups: students and members of neighborhood associations. They offered the platform with two distinctively different perspectives. In hindsight, have we had more time, we would have engaged with a wider range of users to collect more diverse data.
    2. Engaging public institutions in the process takes time
      We requested our public municipalities and the tourism information centre to co-organise many of the events with neighbourhood associations. Their involvement allowed us to reach more people through a trusted source, but it made the process slower and more tedious.
    3. Make sure to align your goals with the municipal priorities when working with them
      The municipality would have been easier to engage, if our experiment solved a specific problem that is aligned with their current priorities at that time. For example, in the case of tourism, we could have focused on providing more information to visitors arriving from airport or from the ferry, as this was more in the top priorities than crowdsourced tourism information.

Smart Buddy Website

What happened & what's next?

  • Smart Buddy is licensed to be used for free by the city of Santander.
  • It will be used by the Local Development Agency to as part of their IT initiation courses. This will allow students to learn how to create a user profile while keeping their privacy. They will also learn how to create points of interests and routes that will be useful for future visitors.
  • We are speaking with two other cities interested in Smart Buddy as a ‘hyper-local Trip Advisor’. Its backend will also be reused for a ‘sustainable tourism’ platform within another project, which is not yet public.
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