Amsterdam, city of red lights and cannabis cafes, may soon be pulling the plug on the party. The coalition has agreed to ban Airbnb, the accommodation sharing service, and other home rentals from the busiest neighborhoods, and to halve their short-term rentals to a maximum 30 days.
To ease the number of visitors and put brakes on the “Disneyfication” of Amsterdam – which expects staggering 18 million tourists this year – the new city government has announced a series of radical measures intended to bring some “balance to the city.”
The coalition of parties forming the city’s new government wants to follow the examples of Barcelona and Venice, where the flood of unruly tourism has made life extremely unpleasant for residents, forcing officials to try to control the number of visitors and their behavior.
To ensure that “the city stays livable for all residents,” as vowed by the Green Party (GroenLinks), the coalition has agreed to ban Airbnb, the accommodation sharing service, and other home rentals from the busiest neighborhoods, and to halve their short-term rentals to a maximum 30 days.
The city is also raising tourist tax to 7%, which should bring the municipal treasury some €105 million a year by 2022. Among the tough measures are plans to stop cruise ships from docking at the central port, restrict navigation on the canals and crack down on “fun trips” including booze boats, beer bikes, Segway’s runs.
Boat passengers taking a tour through the city canals will have to board and disembark outside the center.
The effort to rein in the massive waves of tourists who take over the city virtually year-round, reflects the dissatisfaction of the residents who feel that the city’s ancient center has been overrun by disorderly, drunken, noisy visitors, many of whom go to party -attracted by the ease of buying marijuana and other soft drugs sold legally and drawn as well to the famous sex zone known as the “red light district.”
“Tourist numbers have risen stratospherically,” writes in the Telegraph a tours expert who lives in the city. “Parts of Amsterdam are now so crowded – day in day out, in all seasons – that it is as if the city is constantly in the grip of an enormous festival. Pedestrians spill from narrow pavements and walk in the middle of the street. Cycle lanes fill with riders who have not been on a bike since they were at school.”
“International tourism is part of it,” the GroenLink leader, Rutger Groot Wassink, told the Netherland Times. “Because the obvious positive effects are taking on a dark side in the nuisance caused by a decline of livability for the inhabitants.”
“With a population of around 800,000, the city expects 18 million tourists in 2018, an increase of 20% from 2016 levels,” reports Business Insider. “Anti-tourist and anti-expatriate sentiment have been steadily on the rise in Amsterdam, as both are blamed in part for helping drive housing prices increasingly out of the reach of ordinary Dutch people.”
The average purchase price of an apartment in Amsterdam in 2017 was €407,000, 12% more than in 2016. The new measures are expected to help change the type of tourism and redirect visitors from “pot and sex” toward the cultural centers that have made the city famous, including its world-class museums that house some of the planet’s most famous works of art.
Advertising campaigns have focused on the city’s canals, the Anne Frank House, the museums packed with the greatest works of Van Gogh and Rembrandt.
The city has already made efforts to re-brand in the past, closing a third of its brothels and all the marijuana cafes close to schools.
In its zeal to better tame tourism, the government is also planning to restrict cars and buses driving tourists in and out of the city. They will be barred from the city central area known as the Ring. “The tourist buses will be allowed to stop on the bus deck behind Amsterdam Central Station, » the NL Times explains.
“In the city center, GroenLinks, D66, PvdA and SP (the parties in the coalition) want to expand the management of the retail offer. In addition to banning new tourists’ shops they are also looking at limiting the number of branches of large retail chains.”
In order to create calmer streets, the parties also will reintroduce advertising taxes and ban advertising street boards that play videos.
Amsterdam Marketing, the organization that promotes Amsterdam internationally, will be transformed into a knowledge center and will be given a new name.
Tourism was a key issue driving the recent municipal election results that saw the leading liberal democrat party overtaken by the Greens, whose main campaign theme was to reduce the tourist overrun and to provide more middle-income homes, a shortage that in part, according to the party proposal, has been exacerbated by the short-term rental wave led by Airbnb.
“Amsterdam is a city to live and work in – it’s only a tourist destination in the second place,” the city declared.