Wednesday 08 December 2021

Dutch tourist board promotes ‘hidden gems’ to spread post-Covid tourism

Delft – one of the ‘hidden gems’  Photo:

The Dutch tourist board has no plans to try to dissuade tourists from visiting Amsterdam – but it is instead trying to stimulate local tourism and highlight the country’s ‘hidden gems’, according to Jos Vranken, managing director of NBTC Holland Marketing.

In recent weeks, the mayor of Amsterdam and head of finances have warned that the Dutch capital should not try to welcome the same numbers of tourists as it had before the corona crisis.

But Vranken has said that his national tourism promotion body is working to attract local and foreign tourists to ‘safe’ spots, in order to save tourist industry jobs in the Netherlands, including in Amsterdam. The NBTC has started a campaign called ‘you need to be here’ (hier moet je zijn) to encourage people to less-frequented beauty spots, from Alkmaar’s cheese market to the historic centre of Zwolle.

He told that the impact of the corona shutdown has been devastating for the country’s tourist industry. ‘Demand at some point fell to almost zero,’ he said. ‘It’s not only the economic value that’s affected; it’s affecting people in their daily lives in loss of jobs, income and independence, particularly those in vulnerable labour groups.’


The board is aiming to restart tourism, however, in a way that it describes as more ‘sustainable’ and less likely to cause nuisance by trying to spread it more around the country and across different seasons.

‘We have a plan to start with the Dutch market, then flow out through Germany and Belgium, our neighbours, and then the rest of the key markets for our visitor economy,’ he said. ‘We start off by telling the Dutch, this is a moment to open their eyes, enjoy their own country and be surprised by the beauty they can find. The purpose is to help entrepreneurs restart, ensure it’s done safely and whatever we communicate focuses on the hidden pearls and unexplored destinations rather than hotspots.’

One positive outcome of the crisis, he said, is that it could provide the chance for a new approach that keeps the Netherlands ‘liveable, lovable and valuable’ to visitors and residents alike.

Tourists are unlikely to seek crowds either, Vranken believes. ‘Consumers will take different aspects into consideration when planning a trip: local hygiene and healthcare system and the exit possibility if the virus flares up again,’ he said. ‘People are looking at masses differently, [and whether they still have] room to manouvre and breathing space. Short term – depending on how long a remedy or vaccine will take – these things could become a serious part of people’s consideration, changing behaviour.’


In addition, he said, Amsterdam’s current consultations on access to coffeeshops and the future of prostitution in the red light district, could lead to changes that make it less appealing to nuisance tourists. ‘Maybe the future will learn that here you have to take away the reason to travel full stop, to demotivate the kind of visitor that comes for that reason and take away that 10% of the visitation that creates 90% of the nuisance,’ he said.

Another potential plus could be that digital tools are used more widely for crowd management, for example so that booking timeslots for popular attractions becomes the norm: ‘For the industry, if you have better control of who’s coming and when, it allows you to improve and professionalise your capacity and yield management,’ he said. ‘In less busy times, you can adjust your pricing accordingly.’

The crisis could be a chance to shift the negative aspects of the industry which have in the past led to resident complaints of nuisance and overtourism, he added: ‘Those elements that are not in sync with the future needs of consumers, people who live in cities, I’m sure will change for the better as a result of the learnings from this corona crisis.’

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