Published on : Thursday, May 6, 2021
Amsterdam has been trying for years to project the city as a vibrant, international hub without making it unlivable for its residents, and without letting go of its famous, free-spirited roots.
When international travel stopped last year, Amsterdam, like other cities, became bereft of tourists almost overnight. Sonia Philipse, owner of the restaurant Lavinia Good Food, said that without visitors, the crowds, her city was quieter and more beautiful than she had ever seen it.
Philipse said, “At this point we’re missing our tourists again. But I think there was a moment of really big joy in getting our city back.”
With visitor numbers still low, Amsterdam’s leaders are trying to bring in important new restrictions on short-term vacation rentals, sex tourism and cannabis sales to visitors, for making sure that old problems stemming from tourism do not resurface when visitors return.
Complaints from Amsterdam residents started appearing in 2013, when tourism had fully recovered from a downturn after the financial crisis of 2008. Locals said that tourists behaved loudly and were troublemakers in the city center; disrespecting prostitutes; occupying short-term vacation rentals that pushed housing prices further, and crowding in some of the city’s most beautiful, historic areas.
In 2019, a record-breaking 21.7 million people visited Amsterdam, in a city with a population of about 870,000.
Before the pandemic, city leaders had already brought in a number of measures for alleviating the problems stemming from tourism, including a ban on guided tours of the Red Light District, a ban on new hotels in the city center, an increase in tourist tax, and a ban on new shops catering to tourists. However, even with those measures in place, tourism continued to grow, and the increasing numbers attracted attention.