Blowback: Unwelcome tourists not welcome in Amsterdam
Amsterdam has come up with a major package of measures to tackle harmful tourism as the city ‘welcomes’ its 18 millionth visitor this year, triggering a pledge limit the number of tourists to 20 million.
Smoking cannabis on the street will be banned in tourist hotspots, there will be a crackdown on harmful bachelor parties and by 2035 the city wants more hotel space to be converted into homes or offices.
The city’s economics chief, Sofyan Mbarki, also wants to investigate the ban on cannabis sales in the red light district on weekends, from 4 p.m. Thursday to Sunday, similar to a ban on the sale of alcohol which has already been imposed to limit nuisances.
The city also wants to investigate legal options to ban organized pub crawls and ‘strengthen’ regulations around Airbnb-style vacation rentals. Low-quality hotels will be encouraged to convert into accommodation and student accommodation.
The measures aim to send a sign to the world that Amsterdam does not welcome stag nights and nuisance tourists and that residents are determined to take back their city. The problem peaked in 2019, reduced in the pandemic, but is now back with a revenge.
The plans, announced Wednesday evening, include earlier closing times for restaurants, bars and brothels in the red light district, and a public ‘stay away’ campaign to be launched in 2023 to counter tourism from low level.
The city is also considering raising the tourist tax during peak hours.
Mayor Femke Halsema has previously said she wants to ban tourists from cafes and is considering moving some brothel windows to an erotic hub. Authorities are also considering weeding out organized crime from tourist shops, cannabis cafes and other lucrative outlets targeting visitors.
Mbarki says he is working on a long-term vision, with all parties involved: residents, businesses, experts and professional associations.
“If we love the city, we must act now,” he said in a press release. “We must act to prevent nuisance and overcrowding. If we want to work together effectively into the future, we need a long-term vision and measures. Amsterdam is a global city, and crowds and bustle are part of it, but to keep our city livable we need to opt for limits rather than irresponsible growth.
Christian Democrat councilor Diederik Boomsma said banning smoking cannabis outdoors would send an important signal. “This is an important step in discouraging drug use, getting rid of Amsterdam’s status as a drug capital and reclaiming the city centre,” he told Dutch News.
“I have been advocating for this cannabis ban for seven years. When I first officially proposed it in 2016, no one agreed. But eventually other parties see the need. We must take decisive action to reduce and discourage the use of this dangerous drug, and send a strong signal to tourists: if you want to come to Amsterdam to use drugs: don’t! Stay home or go somewhere else.
The measures will be debated at a city council on December 21.
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