Am­s­ter­dam urges tourists to play nice

Hard-par­ty­ing vis­i­tors are test­ing the fa­mous Dutch tol­er­ance in the city, says Re­nate van der Zee

The Guardian Weekly - - Weekly review -

Els Iping caught a group of male tourists rip­ping out the shrub in front of her house in the cen­tre of Am­s­ter­dam one day last month. They were wear­ing pink dresses and were very drunk. “These kind of things hap­pen all the time,” she says. “It’s worse when they throw up in your plant boxes, be­cause you can’t rinse it away – you have to scoop it out.”

Over the past 10 years, Iping, 64, has seen her neigh­bour­hood change as the re­sult of an un­par­al­leled growth in the num­ber of vis­i­tors. “Every day throngs of tourists pass by my win­dow. The week­end now starts on Thurs­day af­ter­noon; the scream­ing and shout­ing of tourists booz­ing it up is deaf­en­ing. And the rub­bish they leave be­hind!”

As she speaks, as though on cue, a group of 30 tourists gath­ers in front of her win­dow to lis­ten to the lengthy spiel of a tour guide. “The at­mos­phere in the neigh­bour­hood is very dif­fer­ent now. Shops for lo­cal peo­ple have been re­placed by shops that cater to tourists. Even the tourists have started to com­plain – be­cause all they see is other tourists.” Am­s­ter­dam is not the only Euro­pean city where lo­cals suf­fer from grow­ing row­ing num­bers of vis­i­tors. This sum­mer, res­i­dents of Venice and Barcelona held protests at the ef­fects cts of mass tourism.

Am­s­ter­dam has as in­tro­duced me­as­sures to tackle the he prob­lem, in­clud­ing g a crack­down on Airbnb nb rentals that do not ot stick to the let­ting ng rules, a mora­to­rium m on new ho­tels, in­creas­ing the tax on tourist rooms and ban­ning more shops tar­get­ing tourists in the his­toric cen­tre. This week it banned bier­fi­ets or “beer-bikes” – part ve­hi­cle, part bar.

To a cer­tain ex­tent, the prob­lem is of the city’s own mak­ing. Dur­ing the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis of 2008, Am­s­ter­dam de­cided to in­vest in tourism. “We saw it as our lifebuoy,” says Se­bas­ti­aan Mei­jer, who speaks for the coun­cil on eco­nomic af­fairs. “For years we have ac­tively stim­u­lated prop­erty de­vel­op­ers to build ho­tels in the city, and our mar­ket­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion trav­elled the world pro­mot­ing Am­s­ter­dam as a tourist des­ti­na­tion.” It worked – per­haps too well. In a decade, the num­ber of ho­tel guests in­creased by 61%. The to­tal num­ber of vis­i­tors leapt from 11 mil­lion in 2005 to al­most 18 mil­lion in 2016.

That’s a lot for a city of 850,000 with a his­toric 17th-cen­tury cen­tre. Many streets are too nar­row to al­low large crowds to pass. The growth is ex­pected to con­tinue to 23 mil­lion vis­i­tors in 2030, ac­cord­ing to Mei­jer. “We now re­alise we need to get a grip on this,” he says. “Am­s­ter­dam wants to be a hos­pitable city, but mass tourism has too many draw­backs.”

Iping con­sid­ers that an un­der­state­ment. “I am glad they re­alise some­thing needs to be done but they are a lit­tle late. There is not a sound vi­sion for the city’s fu­ture. The mea­sures they are tak­ing now are mainly in re­ac­tion to res­i­dents’ com­plaints.”

Walk­ing through the crowded streets of her neigh­bour­hood, she points out all the tourist shops that had once catered cate to lo­cals. “The chem chemist, the fish­mon­ger, th the hair­dresser and t the shoe shop have all dis­ap­peared, re­placed by shops sell­ing ice cream, sou­venirs and cannabis,” she says.

“What used to be o our lo­cal cheese shop is n now called the Cheese E Ex­pe­ri­ence. The as­sist tants speak English and only sell one type of pre-pack­aged cheese. No sane Am­s­ter­dammer would buy a piece of cheese there.”

Grow­ing tourism has ef­fec­tively changed neigh­bour­hoods, says Iping, with most land­lords opt­ing to rent to tourism ser­vice providers. “It’s dif­fi­cult for GPs and phys­io­ther­a­pists to find prac­tice space; as a re­sult, fa­cil­i­ties for lo­cal peo­ple are dis­ap­pear­ing,” she says. “But com­pared with other peo­ple I still call my­self lucky. At least I know my neigh­bours.” One of her friends lives on a street where vir­tu­ally all the apart­ments are rented to tourists.

It has had an im­pact on so­cial co­her­ence, she says. Res­i­dents tend to take care of their neigh­bour­hoods, “whereas tourists are mainly in­ter­ested in hav­ing a good time”. Bert Nap, 59, a teacher and writer, says “many tourists in­dulge in wild par­ty­ing. They do things here they wouldn’t

‘It’s worst when they throw up in your plant boxes. You can’t rinse it away – you have to scoop it out’

dream of do­ing at home.” He adds that tourism in the city used to be sea­sonal: “You had busy times, but there were quiet times too. Nowa­days it’s al­ways crowded. I have noth­ing against guided tours through my neigh­bour­hood. But it’s a dif­fer­ent thing when 40 peo­ple block the en­trance to your house while lis­ten­ing to a guide who’s giv­ing a loud, 20-minute per­for­mance that looks more like a stand-up com­edy act than a guided tour.

“For me a line was crossed when a Vene­tian gon­dola ap­peared in the canals. That’s when we re­alised the tourist in­dus­try was tak­ing over.”

Mei­jer says the coun­cil is try­ing to change the be­haviour of tourists. “For a long time our mar­ket­ing was aimed at mak­ing peo­ple come to Am­s­ter­dam. Now we are want to spread a new mes­sage: ‘Come to Am­s­ter­dam, but please be­have’.”

Erik Lat­twein/Alamy

Two tales of one city … Am­s­ter­dam’s buzzing nightlife and, be­low, the more tra­di­tional im­age as de­picted on fridge mag­nets

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.