Am­s­ter­dam gears up to bring bal­ance to tourism

China Daily - - WORLD -

AM­S­TER­DAM — The Dutch city un­veiled far-reach­ing plans on Wed­nes­day to rein in tourism, re­flect­ing the dis­sat­is­fac­tion of many res­i­dents who feel its his­toric cen­ter has been over­run.

The lead­ing Green-Left and other par­ties, ne­go­ti­at­ing a new mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment after March elec­tions, vowed to re­turn “Bal­ance to the City”, in a doc­u­ment of that name seen by the me­dia.

“The pos­i­tive sides of tourism such as em­ploy­ment and city rev­enues are be­ing more and more over­shad­owed by the neg­a­tive con­se­quences” — in­clud­ing trash and noise pol­lu­tion, the doc­u­ment said.

Changes the doc­u­ment out­lines in­clude cur­tail­ing “amuse­ment trans­porta­tion” such as multi-per­son “beer bikes”; crack­ing down on al­co­hol use in boats on the canals; fur­ther re­strict­ing Airbnb and other home rentals; and a large tax hike.

The plans also in­clude cre­at­ing an in­ven­tory of all com­mer­cial beds in the city to try to cap var­i­ous sec­tors such as those on cruise ships and in ho­tels.

“I’m very happy that the city is now fi­nally tak­ing ac­tion, be­cause res­i­dents have been ask­ing for it for a very long time,” said Bert Nap of neigh­bor­hood or­ga­ni­za­tion d’Oude Bin­nen­stad, in the his­toric cen­ter.

“What I’m wor­ried about is that this pack­age of mea­sures is so dras­tic that there will be a lot of law­suits and po­lit­i­cal re­sis­tance, which will cost a lot of time.”

He said the city was suf­fer­ing from too many vis­i­tors in gen­eral, which had the ef­fect of chang­ing the char­ac­ter of the cen­ter into one big tourist attraction. He also said some un­ruly, drunken tourists were mak­ing the city cen­ter an unattrac­tive place for lo­cal res­i­dents.

Edgy lure

With a pop­u­la­tion of around 800,000, the city ex­pects 18 mil­lion tourists in 2018, an in­crease of 20 per­cent from 2016 lev­els, many drawn by an edgy at­mos­phere gen­er­ated by read­ily avail­able soft drugs and the “red light” sex zone.

Anti-tourist and anti-ex­pa­tri­ate sen­ti­ment have been steadily on the rise in Am­s­ter­dam, as both are blamed in part for help­ing drive hous­ing prices in­creas­ingly out of the reach of or­di­nary Dutch peo­ple.

The av­er­age apart­ment in Am­s­ter­dam cost 407,000 eu­ros ($475,000) in 2017, an in­crease of around 12 per­cent from 2016 lev­els, ac­cord­ing to na­tional real es­tate as­so­ci­a­tion NVM.

The change of em­pha­sis has al­ready started from na­tional gov­ern­ment over the past years, to try to dis­suade vis­i­tors from the more earthy pas­times the city is fa­mous for.

Ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns have fo­cused on the city’s canals, the Anne Frank House and the mu­se­ums packed with the great­est works of Van Gogh and Rem­brandt.

Leg­is­la­tors have helped the re-brand­ing, shut­ting a third of the city’s broth­els in 2008 and start­ing a pro­gram in 2011 to close mar­i­juana cafes lo­cated near schools.

“Am­s­ter­dam is a city to live and work in — it’s only a tourist des­ti­na­tion in the sec­ond place,” the mu­nic­i­pal doc­u­ment said.

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