Smart solutions for over-touristed cities

The coastal city of Ostend, Belgium, is set to trial new technologies to improve the quality of services for its inhabitants, a population that triples in the tourist season


Ostend is known as the “queen of the Belgian seaside resorts”: its beach, fishing harbour and old town draw thousands of visitors every year.

“We are a small city but, being on the coast, we triple our population (around 70,000 residents) in the summertime. So, we have problems typical of bigger towns,” says Astrid Vanackere, smart city coordinator at the Municipality.

In particular, Ostend will look closely at the solutions adopted by tourist cities such as Valencia in Spain, Dresden in Germany and Antalya in Turkey, which are the ‘lighthouses’ of the EU smart city project MAtchUP. Vanackere says: “As ‘a follower city’ will see how they handle issues such as sustainable mobility and deal with information and communications technology (ICT). In this way, we want to upscale our own ideas and strategies.”

These innovations should find fertile ground in this city, which is already open to technological solutions. For example, the local authorities have decided to use drone technology to detect and monitor seagull nests. These birds cause many problems in cities near the sea as they may be aggressive when hungry or protecting their young. Moreover, they pose hygiene risks caused by excrements and rubbish when they dig in the bins.

The city has also planned to build a smart pontoon in the harbour, equipped with LED lights, sensors for tidal waves, solar panels, and instruments for measuring wind and current. In addition, the local football club – the KV Oostende – has launched a crowdfunding campaign to install more than 1000 solar panels on the roof of the Versluys Arena and make it a CO2-neutral football stadium.

Watch the video interview with Astrid Vanackere, Smart city coordinator of the city of Ostend: