Amsterdam city council member and city MP for Amsterdam-Zuid, Laurens Ivens has made it clear that he does not agree with the cannabis tourism that has been invading the city in recent years. According to Ivens, the city council should be asking itself “Who is the city for?” and “What is our role in society?” rather than encouraging cannabis tourism.
As we reported previously, Amsterdam City Council passed a resolution on June 10th, 2017, in response to an increasing number of cannabis tourists visiting the city. The resolution, introduced by city councilor Peggy Oudshoorn, demands that all information on cannabis sales is removed from tourist information websites. The resolution, which is seen as a way to reduce the number of tourists visiting the city from the Netherlands, also calls for the closure of many of the so-called “coffee shops”, which are Amsterdam’s many cannabis-centric businesses. The resolution is set to take effect in July.
City of Amsterdam officials are exploring ways to redefine travel to the Dutch capital as pandemic-related restrictions are eased. They plan to highlight the city’s cultural assets while reducing its reputation as a place for partying, sex and cannabis tourism. Dutch authorities began easing restrictions in April, leading to a gradual return of tourists, who accounted for about 10% of Amsterdam’s economy before the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Authorities in Amsterdam temporarily shut down famous marijuana coffee shops in March 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across Europe. They have allowed them to reopen for takeaways, but only for the duration of the closure. These restrictions have led to a sharp decline in tourism in the city, which is mainly focused on bars, cafes and Amsterdam’s famous red light district.
But as tourism begins to pick up, city officials want to welcome more visitors interested in Amsterdam’s art museums, history and other cultural attractions, while driving away the partygoers who negatively impact residents’ quality of life. Unlike many other popular destinations, tourism is only part of the city’s economy. Ninety percent of Amsterdam’s economy comes from sectors other than tourism, which gives the city an opportunity to plan for the revitalization of this sector.
Amsterdam is fortunate to be able to use the pandemic to try new things, he said, adding: This is a good time to experiment.
Last month, the city of Amsterdam launched a 100,000 euro (about $118,000) advertising campaign to attract tourists interested in the city’s food, art and nature, not sex, alcohol and cannabis.
If tourists only want to smoke weed, drink too much alcohol and visit the red light district, they’d better stay home, Amsterdam’s deputy mayor Victor Everhardt told reporters by email.
Proposed restrictions on cannabis tourism in Amsterdam ahead of pandemic
Even before the pandemic hit Europe, Amsterdam city officials were looking for ways to change the city’s reputation as a party destination. Mayor of Amsterdam Femke Halsema has proposed to curb cannabis tourism. She cites a study that found a third of customers would visit coffee shops less often if they were banned. The proposal comes as city officials try to reduce traffic congestion in the Wallen and Singel neighborhoods, where the red light district and cannabis shops are concentrated.
A survey commissioned by Halsema from the city’s Bureau of Research, Information and Statistics showed that 34 percent of visitors to the Red Light District and Singel would be less inclined to visit the cafes if foreigners were banned. This figure was even higher for tourists from the UK.
For British visitors, cafés are by far the most important reason to come to Amsterdam (33%), according to the agency. They less often than average (32%) cite walking or cycling as the main reason for visiting the city (21%) and, on the other hand, more often cite cheap travel as the main reason (11% versus 6% average).
The municipality has also proposed to move the red light district in Amsterdam from the centre to the outskirts of the city. But some residents are not convinced that efforts to limit the number of party tourists will be successful.
There will always be drunk tourists. They were in the 17th century. Sailors got drunk in those same bars. It’s part of Amsterdam society, says Berber Hidma, a 34-year-old tour guide.
However, tour guide Luque Spigt supports efforts to encourage tourists to focus on the city’s cultural offerings rather than opportunities to have fun.
The problems are the uncontrolled groups of drunken Brits, the budget tourists who throw all their rubbish on the street, says Spigt. We need other (types of) tourists.
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