Gema Igual, Santander’s Mayoress
What does a tourist need to know about the city of Santander?
Tourists coming to the city of Santander already know what can be found. They already know the wonders that we have, because nowadays there’s a lot of information. But, yes it’s true, that Santander is surprising because it is a medium / small capital; we have gastronomic opportunities, a clean environment, sun, beaches and culture and it’s the perfect complement to the region. In Santander and Cantabria, which must always be “sold” together, you can be, on the same day, in a remote village, taking a walk in the mountains and at night taking in a show and a wonderful restaurant.
What characterizes the city?
Above all, at this moment, if Santander is characterized by anything, it is for being a very safe city, more and more open to the world, where more and more international tourists are coming to enjoy the culture, gastronomy, quality of life and wellbeing
One of the challenges is to de-seasonalise tourism, so that it’s not just in summer
When I joined the City Hall sixteen years ago, there were hotels that closed in winter and only opened in the season, which ran from Easter to the middle of October. That’s over. Santander has wonderful beaches, but it’s not just about the beaches. Because the beaches can be enjoyed throughout the year we have to fight to have them in perfect condition. And we need the entrepreneurs in the tourist sector to run their businesses all year round, allowing their workers to become more professional; that will also be good for us.
“The emotions and experiences that take place here can not be told, you have to live them”
Santander is one of the constituent cities of the Smart Tourist Destinations Network, what does this initiative consist of?
What all cities seek is to be predictive and meet expectations and, if we have the tourism sector monitored, I can find out via the technology, the preferences of people who come to Santander and I can predict, invite or customize that offer for the tourists. It is about being more targeted in what we offer our clients.
The Botín Centre is already a landmark for the city now and will be for years to come …
It is a benchmark or an advance for the people of Santander, firstly, because we have seen how the Botín Centre has changed the entire maritime front, has gained space next to the bay and has changed the image of the city; the traffic has been redirected underground, which is a benefit for the people of Santander, even if they aren’t actually using the Centre. Then, the building itself, the work of Renzo Piano, one of the most important architects of the world, stands on our sea front. And, inside, the Botín Foundation, which wasn’t born yesterday, has many years of experience. So, for many reasons, for the enclave it is in, for lovers of architecture and for lovers of art, it is a window open to the world.
You were recently in Madrid, reviewing the project for the transfer of the Banco Santander art collection.
Fundación Botín has some funds, an art collection and a wonderful coin collection exhibited in Boadilla. We are working together so that the main building of Paseo de Pereda can be that Centre of Interpretation of the Bank, linked to the city, and where we could keep that incredible collection. And we keep moving forward, the Reina Sofia (an important art gallery in Madrid) will have an associated centre in Santander linked to the Lafuente Archive and the MAS museum; these will be in La Florida neighbourhood, and it’s going to become the cultural district. We’ve already come from a cultural circuit with endowments which, while only handling groups of 15, has its place. In addition, the Museum of History and Archeology of Cantabria (MUPAC) in Santander has extraordinary funds; let’s see if a building can be made to match.
And for the future?
Santander is planning the future very well. The advance, the progress of the city is based on two things: innovation and culture. The candidacy to be European Capital of Culture in 2016, although it failed, was a resounding success; since the cultural fabric of the city was united and it was seen and assumed by all that, culturally speaking, there was a long way to go. As a result, the cultural bodies joined together. An alliance has been made with Gijón and Bilbao which we are now expanding to include to Logroño. We’ve seen that we can work together to do great things and, for example, be able to present a joint front when looking for grants and subsidies.