Where are the canals from here? Anyone arriving at Amsterdam Central Station immediately knows where to go. Always follow the tourists. But be careful! Because pedestrians live dangerously here. The handlebars on Dutch bikes have “insane speed”. If you want to cross one of the cycle paths with your trolley – shoo, shoo – you can start skidding. Especially since even the tram tracks can get in the way. Without a doubt: it is cramped in the center of the Dutch capital. Especially in the spring.
It is not the fault of the tulips, but of the image of this city, made up of “sex & drugs & rock ‘n’ roll”. Now he is taking countermeasures and no longer wants to greet so many tourists. Trust a different clientele. Less could be more.
Are the Dutch just a little further ahead of Berlin when it comes to overtourism and touristification, for better or for worse? Looking at Amsterdam, one can become frightened and anxious in view of the current advertising claim of visitBerlin marketers: “City of Freedom”.
Katharina Wenck is located at the Leidseplein (“Leiden Square”). A transport hub at the southern end of the central canal ring and arguably the most beautiful square in the city. Katharina Wenck takes care of the tourists and has an iPad in her hand. The 19-year-old from Hamburg is studying tourism at the University of Breda. His current project: a road survey.
“We study sustainable tourism,” says Wenck, pointing to the display. It is about ten pages on tourism in Amsterdam. Does it really bother you as a tourist himself? That it is too tight, too loud, too busy. Such questions. “From an economic point of view, tourism is fine here,” says the young woman. “But many are now selling their homes here. Some of them have small children and visitors often wander around the houses until four in the morning ”.
Amsterdam defends itself with bans
First, Amsterdam Marketing has launched a behavioral campaign. The signs are in English. This has been found to work best. There are prospects of severe penalties for drinking alcohol on the street and littering the city with rubbish rubbish. Mounted police officers patrol the streets between the canals. “The tourism authority no longer cares about bringing more people here,” Wenck reports from a meeting at his university with the city’s official advertisers. “Now they have even renamed our Amsterdam Strand beach,” he says. This is not the only measure.
In the future, the city will introduce an additional tourist tax in addition to the tourist tax. In addition to paying seven percent of the hotel bill, three euros per night and guest will be due in the future, the city administration announced in May. The money should also go into the conservation of the historic urban landscape.
Walther Schoonenberg is absolutely right about this. He is secretary of the “Vereniging Vrieden van de Amsterdamse Binnenstad”, a civic association with around 3000 members. They care about Amsterdam’s cultural heritage and work to ensure that their hometown stays together, both structurally and spiritually. “In the 1960s we set out to protect the historically most important parts of the city”, he says in an interview with Tagesspiegel
We meet him in his private apartment in Sloterkade, a street that is still part of the center but not of the canal ring road. “The city center is too small for tourists,” says the Amsterdam native. “On the other hand, if I were a tourist, I would also be interested in the canal ring in the old city, which is still the largest historical center in Holland. But this is the problem: everything is unbalanced “.
Sex & Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll
There are onlookers in the neighborhood of whores, noise and alcoholism. The historic center is in danger of overturning. “In the 60s and 70s we wanted people to live in the historic center,” says the historian, “this is also important for the monuments. If no one lives in the historic center anymore, it will be just a facade “.
Other metropolises also suffer from crowds of visitors. Venice recently made headlines. The famous lagoon city wants to charge daily visitors a fee of three euros from September. It is doubtful that this “entrance fee” will dissuade guests from visiting.
According to official data, Amsterdam records about ten million overnight stays per year, the city center has about 85,000 inhabitants and 90,000 employees, most of them in the restaurant and hotel sector. Other sources write about twenty million guests who visited the Dutch capital in 2017. Surely a disproportionate number.
The Prinsengracht Hotel doorman is puzzled: “I don’t know either. It seems to show more and more. And yes, it’s true: there is overtourism. Usually we are fully booked.” Schoonenberg fears that people are now moving away from ‘ring of canals and that hotels make room. “Venice has 65,000 inhabitants, we have 20,000 more,” he says. “The next decade will show whether it will be the same as Venice.”
He sees Amsterdam at its peak, at the Peak.
Stop at the hotel for Amsterdam
Many Amsterdamers see the big picture differently: there are no older tourists who are good tourists than younger ones looking for alcohol and drugs. Culture-loving backpackers should be welcome in all Amsterdam residents. But how can this be controlled?
“It’s sad that our tolerance levels are under pressure,” says a pensive Walther Schoonenberg. “How can we change an image that is internationally associated with tolerance and absolute freedom?”
First of all, he hopes for a real stop in the hotel, which has not yet been implemented. No new hotels should be built in the whole region. If not, guests will simply take the tram to the canal ring and the hustle and bustle will continue as before. Airbnb must be considered illegal, the Amsterdam native asks: “We must defend our homes from tourists so that the social structure is not irretrievably lost.” A house is a home for its residents and not a hotel.
There is still no clear effect of the change of course initiated in Amsterdam. But tourism is at the top of the political agenda. Why? There are not enough affordable housing in the city. This is very familiar to Berliners.