SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – It’s unclear when international tourists will be back in the Netherlands – but the head of Amsterdam’s marketing organisation wants to build a different kind of future when they return.
Geerte Udo, chief executive of amsterdam&partners, has told DutchNews that the city will aim to build a new industry that is socially, economically and ecologically ‘sustainable’.
Instead of attracting the hen parties and stag nights who once turned the red-light district into an all-night party, it is aiming for a culture and history-loving audience.
‘Amsterdam has always been an open and international city, and we would love to welcome visitors as soon as possible,’ she told DutchNews. ‘But the right visitors.’
For years, city residents have been complaining about the negative effects of over-tourism and the current city government is imposing stringent measures to contain the nuisance.
Tourist tax has been raised, new tourist shops banned in the centre since 2017, and the council is pushing ahead with a ban on holiday rentals in three areas including the red-light district from July 1.
Its figures suggest that one in 15 homes has been listed on Airbnb, and that 25,000 advertisements are on holiday rentals sites – a five-fold increase in recent years.
‘Around 80% of residents in the Centrum area experience a lot or regular nuisance from holiday home rentals,’ head of housing Laurens Ivens has said.
Udo sees the corona crisis as a potential turning point, however, in marketing Amsterdam. ‘The impact of the intelligent lockdown is very heavy on the whole industry, but it shows what Amsterdam is with only locals,’ she explained.
‘We [will] invest in the future to build a better reputation, adjust the offers (banning Airbnb in the centre) and [use] policies on mono cultural shops.’
A strategy of clear communication will be aimed at attracting the right kinds of visitors and deterring others from certain areas.
‘It is totally different [to host] culture or history lovers to stag parties that only use your city as a backdrop,’ she added. ‘We have to make sure that the balance between living, working and visiting comes back, starting with local offers for locals so that they can start using [the red-light district] again.’
The council’s current evaluation into the future of prostitution windows in the red-light district and coffee shops is also expected to play a role in the new tourism vision for Amsterdam, which last year had almost 19 million overnight guests.