Amsterdam tells rowdy tourists to stay away
Amsterdam‘s well-known tolerance for recreational drugs and sex has long drawn tourists looking for the seedy side of the city of canals and cycle paths.
But when border closures and blockages caused by the Covid-19 pandemic emptied the Dutch capital of all visitors, many locals found the absence of the loudest and intoxicated people to be a breath of fresh air.
Delighted with the calm atmosphere of their newly deserted historic city center and picturesque waterways, residents reclaimed sections of the city they had avoided for years. Now they’re not sure they want to return them.
“Amsterdam needs tourists, without them our wonderful museums and restaurants would not survive,” says Nicola Theobald, who has lived in the city center for 30 years.
“But that was a bonus during the pandemic when they couldn’t come. No more large groups crowding around the canal, at worst vomiting because of alcohol and drugs. We got our city back and loved it that way.
In truth, Amsterdam has for years struggled with the impact of tourists causing excessive noise, trash and urinating in public amid growing discontent among residents.
FRANCOIS WALSCHAERTS / AFP via Getty Images
Amsterdam residents are making the most of the city now that there are fewer tourists.
Just before the pandemic, residents complained that their city had turned into a “Disney tourist world”.
Having now known life without rowdy visitors, city officials are determined not to return to those days.
Before any resumption of vaccine-fueled summer travel, they launched a surprising tourism campaign in an attempt to shake Amsterdam’s reputation as the party capital.
So, as tourists are encouraged to travel to the city as lockdown restrictions ease, rowdy visitors and bachelor parties bent on drinking and drugging have been explicitly urged to stay at the city. difference.
City council spent € 100,000 ($ 119,000) on an online campaign encouraging people to visit the city’s cultural heritage, while warning disrespectful “unwelcome tourists” that they are not welcome.
“We don’t want to go back to what we saw before the pandemic, where massive crowds in the city’s red light district and entertainment areas caused nuisance to residents,” a city council statement said.
“Visitors who respect Amsterdam and the people of Amsterdam have always been welcome and will of course be welcome.
“Visitors who treat our residents and our heritage with disrespect are not welcome. The message we have for them is: don’t come to Amsterdam.
The aim of the online campaign is to “stimulate the desired behavior” among tourists, explains Geerte Udo, managing director of Amsterdam & partners, the city’s promotion agency.
She says the message is simple, “You are welcome, but please drink inside, use a urinal, and be quiet.”
“We do not want visitors with unlimited behavior, without respect for the city and its inhabitants,” Udo adds.
REMKO DE WAAL / ANP / AFP via Getty Images
The city council has launched an online campaign making it clear that only “respectful” tourists will be welcome in Amsterdam.
Currently targeting British men between the ages of 18 and 34 who are planning a trip to the Dutch capital, the campaign is set to roll out to target groups in other countries in the coming months.
In 2019, around 20 million international tourists visited the Dutch capital, 70% of which came from neighboring countries Germany and Belgium, as well as the United Kingdom.
In the same year, Amsterdam successfully targeted British male tourists with a campaign discouraging anti-social behavior.
Entitled ‘Enjoy & Respect’, it warned British and Dutch tourists that they risked a fine of € 140 ($ 170) if caught urinating in public, disturbing the peace in the center or disturbing the peace in the center. throw rubbish.
When asked, 45% of UK respondents said the campaign had raised awareness of the impact of disruptive behavior.
Anyone who has visited Amsterdam in recent years will understand why. Some of the worst excesses of tourist behavior are often heralded by loud voices speaking with British accents belonging to stag or hen parties with extravagant outfits.
Local councilor Rob Hefland summed up the situation bluntly in an interview with DutchNews.
“If you intend to see the most beautiful city in the world this summer, come to Amsterdam,” Hefland said. “If your intention is to drink and misbehave, dressed like a penis, look elsewhere!”
The latest campaign is part of the city council’s mission to present Amsterdam in a new light, leaving behind its notorious reputation as a party destination where anything goes.
“Amsterdam doesn’t want to be known as the city of cafes and the red light district. It’s quite old-fashioned and has negative connotations, ”explains Ko Koens, professor of new urban tourism at the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences.
But Koens is skeptical of the council’s approach to attracting “a certain type of tourist”.
“The Amsterdam brand is built on 600 years of tolerance and openness,” he says. “How do you create an image for yourself where you are open and tolerant, but at the same time send the message ‘dear visitor, grow up’? ”
EVERT ELZINGA / ANP / AFP via Getty Images
“We want ‘responsible’ tourists who appreciate the city for all it has to offer,” says Nicola Theobald.
Some residents have praised the countryside, which they hope will bring calm to the city center.
“We have to find a balance. We want ‘responsible’ tourists who appreciate the city for all it has to offer and, at the same time, respect those of us who live here, ”says Theobald.
“We don’t want to be the city known as a bachelorette party spot, but we don’t want to be an ‘elite’ place either.”
Others say the measures do not go far enough to address the problems caused by mass tourism.
Political economist Martijn Badir said the new campaign “distracts from the fundamental policy change needed to prevent the return of the overtourism we saw before the crisis”.
Last summer, Badir launched a petition entitled “Amsterdam has a choice”, which was signed by more than 30,000 people.
He urged the authorities to improve the quality of life of downtown residents and limit tourist nights to 12 million. The total stood at 18.8 million in 2019.
According to Badir, the council should focus on more impactful measures, such as increasing the tourist tax or cracking down on Airbnbs in the center, instead of a marketing campaign.
“Campaigning to attract the ‘right’ kind of tourists doesn’t work at all,” he says.
Dean Mouhtaropoulos / Getty Images
The mayor of Amsterdam is considering moving the city’s sex industry out of the city.
Badir adds that city authorities should instead aim to reduce disruption by banning foreign tourists from cafes and moving the red light district to a new location outside of the city center.
Last year, the city’s mayor, Femke Halsema, suggested opening a “prostitution hotel” outside the center. The proposal has been criticized by sex workers who say the move endangers their safety and livelihoods.
Amsterdam isn’t the only major destination weighing its relationship with the most unruly tourists after tasting life without them.
The capital of the Czech Republic, Prague, another city that struggles with drunken tourist behavior, is looking for ways to encourage visitors to enjoy lesser-known attractions far from its center.
However, even wise visitors can be problematic if there are too many of them. Florence recently launched a new initiative to dispel the huge crowds that invade the Italian city to see famous works of art in its Uffizi Gallery.
Authorities have sent many key items to the surrounding countryside as part of their “Uffizi Diffusi” project to distribute visitors to neglected areas who will benefit from the income they bring.
Meanwhile, in Amsterdam, steps are already being taken to crack down on rowdy behavior over the summer, including temporary bans on laughing gas, alcohol and public address systems at large gatherings along the canals and in the red light district.
Additional police will be deployed to impose fines on visitors sleeping in their cars through a mobile credit card dispenser, the city council said in a statement.