Wednesday 15 July 2020

Amsterdam asks for emergency powers to shut hotels to stop visitor stream

Tourists return to Amsterdam. Photo: DutchNews.nl

Amsterdam has asked the Dutch government for emergency powers to shut down overnight accommodation if the city threatens to become too full.

A month after mayor Femke Halsema called for extreme caution in welcoming back international visitors – if the city is to keep to corona distancing of 1.5m in public space – the council has revealed it is considering far-reaching action to avoid this.

In a letter to fellow council members, head of finance Victor Everhardt said that although local and international visitors are necessary for the capital’s economic recovery, it is preparing a package of measures to stem the flow if necessary.

‘The most important measure we have asked for from the government is the possibility to limit the available capacity of overnight accommodation (such as holiday rentals, bed and breakfasts and hotels) through the Covid-19 emergency powers if public health is under threat,’ the letter reveals. ‘This is to limit the flow of visitors to the city and give Amsterdammers room to make use of its facilities. We realise this is a drastic measure but we want to stop the city from falling back into a lockdown, and so protect our fragile economic recovery.’

International leisure travel has been possible to the Netherlands since June 15, but officials are concerned that there is no space for the estimated 1.2 million to 1.3 million daily visitors who came to the capital before the crisis hit.

The letter also reveals that 10% of Amsterdam’s jobs are in the tourist sector, employing some 70,000 people. At the moment, cafés and restaurants are typically making 30% to 40% of their former income serving local trade, while museums are only filling a third of their current 36% capacity, Everhardt reveals.

Half of the city’s revenue comes from its own income rather than government money, and tourist tax revenues are predicted to drop by €98 million this year.

‘For Amsterdam, a densely populated city with limited space in its historic centre and a great appeal for visitors, recovery is a complex task,’ the letter notes. ‘It is a very fragile balance.’

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