Friday 12 August 2022

Stopping the tourism madness: the shape of central Amsterdam in 2025

The red light district, deserted during the first lockdown Photo: Alex Nicholls-Lee

Amsterdam in 2025 will have a city centre where a ‘different’ kind of visitor and ‘Amsterdammers want to come’, according to new city plans.

The coronavirus crisis laid bare how certain areas had become almost totally dependent on low-budget tourism, linked with noise, nuisance and locals chased or priced out.

Now, following calls from tourism experts, businesses and local residents to reset the city’s reputation for drugs, sex and lost weekends, the council has proposed 88 far-reaching measures to ensure that after the crisis, things change.

Eva Plijter, a spokeswoman for the council’s inner city team, told that the aim is to make the area once again attractive for people to live in and discourage certain kinds of mass tourism.

‘We are researching the legal possibilities to ban holiday rentals such as Airbnb in the [entire] inner city, and this plan also talks about reducing the number of coffee shops and prostitution windows because they appeal to visitors we are less keen to see return,’ she said. ‘We want to make De Wallen more liveable.’

Buy up

According to the plan, the council wants to buy up buildings containing tourist shops to repurpose them, research whether it is possible to convert cheap hotels to other functions, such as homes, and restrict opening times for brothel windows and nightlife to make the red light district better for residents.

The mayor of Amsterdam is currently investigating whether prostitution should be moved entirely to one ‘erotic’ centre elsewhere, and whether coffeeshops should enforce a residents-only rule in order to reduce nuisance and criminality. Some measures in the long-awaited plan are already being implemented – and since July there has been an Airbnb/holiday rental ban in three smaller areas – but the city is researching far more radical steps.

Among the new ideas are to ban or restrict alcohol sales in shops in nuisance areas – something tried during lockdowns earlier this year – and open a policing point again in red light district. Amsterdam will also run a study to see whether longer opening hours for alcohol-free businesses could improve certain neighbourhoods, while putting in other measures to reduce littering and public urination.

The Amsterdam floating flower market Photo: Senay Boztas

Flower market

The plans aim to rebuild ‘a valuable visitor economy’ by 2025, when Amsterdam will celebrate its 750th birthday. In the inner city plan, Amsterdam admits: ‘Before the corona crisis, at certain times and spots in the inner city, too many people and bad behaviour caused unpleasant situations, and there is also a lot of holiday rental. In some areas in the inner city, there is now an economic monoculture that does not appeal to Amsterdammers. The coronacrisis is still with us but has shown how dependent and vulnerable the inner city is because of this one-dimensional visitor economy.’

Instead, the aim is to change the international image of the city through advertising, encouraging more business visitors and conferences, and tackling areas such as the Bloemenmarkt floating flower market, linked in recent years with ‘flower fraud’. ‘It is clear that something had to change there,’ said Plijter. ‘Locals haven’t visited the flower market for years and it is a pull for mass tourism: we want to give that space back to Amsterdammers.’

Don Ceder, head of the ChristenUnie in Amsterdam, welcomed the plans. ‘The mayor has finally really acknowledged that when it comes to the function of the inner city, we need some severe measures to stop it being a magnet for certain visitors and to ensure the city becomes viable again for the people who live there,’ he said. ‘These plans are a big step in reclaiming the city.’

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