Tourism gets the red light

Par­ties fear the ‘Dis­ney­fi­ca­tion’ of Am­s­ter­dam

The New Zealand Herald - - World - Se­nay Boz­tas in Am­s­ter­dam — Tele­graph Group Ltd

Am­s­ter­dam, city of red lights and cannabis cafes, may soon be pulling the plug on the party. Fol­low­ing the ex­am­ples of Barcelona and Venice, Am­s­ter­dam’s main po­lit­i­cal par­ties have an­nounced rad­i­cal mea­sures to turn down the vol­ume of tourism and re­verse the “Dis­ney­fi­ca­tion” of the Dutch cap­i­tal.

A coali­tion of four par­ties, ne­go­ti­at­ing to form the new city gov­ern­ment, yes­ter­day is­sued a pledge of agreed re­forms to pro­vide “bal­ance in the city”.

It will ban Airbnb short-term rentals in busy ar­eas, di­vert cruise ships from dock­ing in the cen­tre, and crack down on “fun rides” like Seg­ways, beer bikes, and boozy boat trips. The tourist tax will also rise from be­tween 4 and 6 per cent to a flat 7 per cent — rais­ing 105 mil­lion ($179.4m) a year by 2022.

“We have to en­sure that the city stays live­able for all res­i­dents,” said Yvette Hof­man, spokesman for GroenLinks green-left party. “This is a sub­ject that re­ally mat­ters to res­i­dents, who have felt un­der at­tack by in­creas­ing crowds, partly due to Airbnb and il­le­gal ho­tels. They have com­plained that they no longer know their neigh­bours and of [ a tourist] mono­cul­ture in the cen­tre. This is about bal­ance.”

The news comes a month af­ter Eurostar an­nounced a di­rect train ser­vice from Lon­don to Am­s­ter­dam, cue­ing heavy pro­mo­tion. It fol­lows mea­sures such as city per­mits and turn­stiles on busy streets in Venice, a ban on pri­vate rentals to tourists in Palma, Ma­jorca, and a bar on new ho­tels in Barcelona.

Tourism was a cen­tral is­sue in the re­cent Am­s­ter­dam city elec­tions, in which the lead­ing D66 lib­eral democrats were over­taken by GroenLinks, which cam­paigned to re­duce the tourist nui­sance and pro­vide more mid­dle-in­come homes — since tourist rental apart­ments are blamed for ex­ac­er­bat­ing a se­vere short­age of hous­ing.

Am­s­ter­dam, one of Airbnb’s top lo­ca­tions, has seen a huge rise in tourist num­bers, with 18 mil­lion peo­ple ex­pected to visit this year — up from 11 mil­lion in 2005, ac­cord­ing to the re­search bu­reau SEO.

Last year the city an­nounced heavy fines for ex­ceed­ing Airbnb lim­its, and a ban on new tourist shops. From next year the num­ber of days per­mit­ted for Airbnb-type hire will be halved to 30.

The new coali­tion doc­u­ment in­cludes clean­ing up the city and con­trol­ling ad­ver­tis­ing. Tour boats will have to board and un­load out­side the cen­tre and tour guides out­side the red light district will need a per­mit.

“Am­s­ter­dam is a city to live, stay and do busi­ness. Only af­ter this is it a tourist des­ti­na­tion. We want to spread the nui­sance and needs of tourism bet­ter.”

Hof­man added that since GroenLinks, D66 and the Labour and So­cial­ist Party are not op­posed to cannabis cafes, the doc­u­ment does not deal with cannabis: “There are lots of tourists who only come to the city for this, so we need to en­sure it isn’t a nui­sance for res­i­dents.”

The doc­u­ment also says that the Am­s­ter­dam Mar­ket­ing body will need to be re­vamped to pro­mote cul­tural tourism, con­gresses and spread­ing vis­i­tors.

Photo / AP

The city’s main po­lit­i­cal par­ties say “Am­s­ter­dam is a city to live, stay and do busi­ness”.

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