Holidaymakers who want to get drunk and high and sleep in their cars are not welcome in Amsterdam, according to a stiff warning from the city council.
The Netherlands, which is currently reporting around 1,800 new coronavirus infections a day, is expected to go ‘green’ for international travel during the summer. But, unlike Venice, it is sending out a strong message that it no longer wants to return to the nuisance levels of nine million overnight tourists in 2019.
Amsterdam city council on Thursday issued a news release saying it welcomes the recent relaxation of coronavirus restrictions, but does not want a return to the troublesome, low-rent tourism which residents complained of last summer.
‘We do not want to go back to what we saw before the pandemic, where massive crowds in the Red Light District and the city’s entertainment areas caused a nuisance to residents,’ the city announced. ‘Visitors who respect Amsterdam and the people of Amsterdam have always been welcome and will, of course, remain so. Visitors who treat our residents and heritage with disrespect are not welcome. The message we have for them is: don’t come to Amsterdam.’
In a release in both Dutch and English, the city warned that it will be putting together a ‘sleeper team’ of enforcement officers who will monitor cars for people illegally sleeping there and levy on-the-spot fines. If possible, these foreign cars may be clamped ‘earlier’ if they have not paid for parking.
There will be more crowd patrols in busy areas, particularly on weekend evenings, streets may be closed to vehicles, and the waterways will be policed for ‘noise pollution and sailing speed’. Holiday rentals, which are already limited to 30 days per year, will be monitored more intensely and the city council is also investigating banning laughing gas in some parts of the Red Light District. Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema may, as last summer, restrict the sale of alcohol at weekends.
Halsema told The Parool that she too noticed increasing numbers of cars with foreign license plates last summer, and said although the city cannot turn people away, it wants to encourage cultural rather than nuisance tourists. ‘We live in the centre and I see myself the huge increase in foreign numberplates right now,’ she reportedly said.
‘The average Amsterdammer is ambivalent about crowds: it’s a nuisance if it’s really too busy but at the same time we enjoy what the city has to offer, which is why we live here. This summer, we will see both sides of this.’
Longer-term, the city is also investigating limiting access to coffeeshops to Dutch residents, something that the mayor supports, and moving the Red Light District to an erotic centre in another area – although concerns have been raised about whether there is enough policing to control street dealing.
The new tourist approach will use a team of 78 enforcement officers plus another 24 at the weekends, but Halsema said that they will not divert district policing from other areas. ‘We will do what we can with the people we have,’ she told the Parool.
Rob Hofland, a city councillor for D66, said that more tourists will be on the way this summer. ‘It’s only a matter of time before we turn green for travellers and people all over the world will find us again en masse,’ he said. ‘We have a great cultural offer and many places in the city that are worth visiting.
‘[But] the message to visitors who treat our residents and our heritage with disrespect is: don’t come. If it is your intention to see the most beautiful city in the world this summer, come to Amsterdam. If your intention is to booze and misbehave, dressed like a penis, look elsewhere!’
Amsterdam&partners, the economic and visitor promotion agency, is starting a campaign to promote ‘desired behaviour’ in anticipation of the city centre reopening. ‘This means that businesses can finally welcome clients again and make money, cultural institutions can allow visitors to enjoy their offering and residents can meet each other in person again,’ according to a spokeswoman.
‘But we do not want nuisance from poor behaviour (like noise, peeing in public, street drunkenness) and so we are starting an activation campaign targeting the kind of behaviour we do want.’
The campaign, expected to kick off next week, will include physical and online information, ‘nudges’ and increased policing to increase awareness and good manners.
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