AMSTERDAM is changing its approach to tourism in a way that is expected to hit Brits the hardest.


What’s happening?

The capital of the Netherlands is known for its picturesque, Instagram-friendly network of canals and narrow lanes, its colourful bicycles and its bouquets of tulips, but there is no denying its liberal laws have rendered it notorious for its red light district and cannabis cafe culture, which are both major tourism draws.



Amsterdam is endearing to lose these less enchanting associations, launching a new springtime campaign to curb overcrowding - around 20 million tourists visit annually, putting pressure on the city that has a population of around 822,000. And so, following consultation with residents and business owners, the City of Amsterdam has opted to bring in new rules.


The focus is…?

To reframe the tourism industry and build what it says is a “more responsible visitor economy” and deter “nuisance tourists” over the next dozen years - according to its tourism plan, Vision on Tourism in Amsterdam 2035. Officials say they are weary of firms who "abuse the city’s image to promote it as a place of 'unlimited opportunity’”, impacting residents who are basically fed up. "If it we go on like this, I think in 10 or 20 years, people will no longer be living in the inner city," Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema told Dutch News. "They will have moved out because they can’t afford it, because the atmosphere is too common, because the city has become too dirty…in all of the senses.”


The times they are…

…a changing for sure as part of the effort. In a bid to deter so-called “nuisance tourists”, visitors will no longer be able to smoke marijuana on the streets of the city from mid-May, while there will also be restrictions on alcohol sales. Bars and sex-work establishments will be placed under curfew, despite many operating 24-hours-a-day. Amsterdam will also limit the number of river cruises and Airbnb rental properties. Hotels face being converted for residential or office use.


What about the red-light area?

Ms Halsema has plans to move the district out of Amsterdam, with a proposal to build a five-story “erotic centre” with bars and 100 small rooms.


So it’s a re-framing effort?

The wider campaign promotes the city's cultural wealth, like its aesthetic, historic canals and museums. But its "Stay Away” aspect highlights the changes afoot, focusing on discouraging foreign visitors who “only come to Amsterdam for alcohol, drugs and sex”.


How will Brits be hit?

Some Brits out for a hedonistic weekend will be less likely to travel to Amsterdam after hearing news of plans to relocate the red light district to an erotic centre, a survey found, but others will be more likely to go instead. The research - by Opinium Amsterdam - polled 2,000 British adults and 1,241 Dutch adults, with 11% of Brits saying they probably wouldn’t visit and one in five saying the red light relocation was a bad idea. But, 15% said the plans would make them more likely to visit.


Amsterdam is not alone?

A number of European countries are cracking down on tourism, with hotposts across Spain and Portugal among those creating new sets of rules to limit visitors and reduce the impact on residents' lives. Barcelona's mayor has announced plans to cut back on the number of tourists visitng on cruise ships, with restrictions already introduced on the number of new hotels in the city, while Portugal is aiming to reduce the number of Airbnbs in the country to combat its housing crisis.


Some cities are taxing tourists?

Barcelona is also imposing a new tourist charge this year, along with Venice and Valencia, to address “overtourism”.