Amsterdam bans all tours around red light windows from April

Red light district in Amsterdam.
Hundreds of victims end up in prostitution. Photo:
Red light district in Amsterdam.
The red light district Photo:

Amsterdam has banned tour guides from taking tourists around red light district windows in all parts of the city from April.

The vote, which took place in a council meeting on Tuesday, is part of a drive by mayor Femke Halsema to tackle the ‘many-headed monster’ caused by sex tourists.

Last year, she outlined four options to reduce the nuisance caused by visitors who descend on central Amsterdam in their millions to ogle women in the famous windows.

All organised tours in the Wallen – the red light district – have been banned from this January, but now the council is implementing a tough set of new rules for tours and a ban on organised guides visiting all sex work windows.

As well as the famous brothels in De Wallen, Amsterdam has windows on the Spuistraat and the surrounding area, and also the Ruysdaelkade, east of the museum quarter.

‘It is disrespectful to treat sex workers as a tourist attraction, therefore tours at De Wallen will be banned,’ said deputy mayor Victor Everhardt in a press statement. ‘Tours outside the Red Light District will still be permitted, but only if guides and participants of tours adhere to the new, stricter rules. This will help to prevent disruptions for residents and businesses.’

Tour guides found to be breaking the rules – after a ‘warning period’ of six weeks from April 1 2020 – will be fined €190 and the tour will be disbanded immediately. Three violations will mean a guide’s permit is withdrawn temporarily, and the fourth will mean a permanent ban, while companies organising trips face a penalty of between €2,500 and €7,500.

Tourists are still free to wander around the windows themselves, but the city council is investigating the best way to limit the nuisance from this without using signs saying ‘red light district’. A substantial ‘wayfinding’ research document commissioned by the council last autumn sparked a row about whether using these words would increase tourism-related problems rather than mitigating them.

According to the Parool, around 115 tours currently go around the Wallen, and the new prohibition has taken some time to impose as it first had to be agreed by the Amsterdam court.

Vera Al, a city council spokeswoman, told ‘We hope that this broader ban means there will be less nuisance for people who live and work there.’

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