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Photograph: Tupungato /

How Amsterdam is fighting back against overtourism

Four things we can learn from the Dutch capital to make the rest of the world a nicer place too

Huw Oliver
Written by
Huw Oliver

You can only imagine locals felt relieved. In Amsterdam last March, lockdown set in and tourism was put on pause. For the first time in forever, there weren’t tens of thousands of travellers gawping at girls, lighting up in coffeeshops, ordering poffertjes and stroopwafel on every corner. Amsterdam breathed.

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Now it wants to carry on breathing. The Dutch capital has brought in a raft of measures to improve life for locals and create a more sustainable future for the city. Here are some initiatives we’d like to see in other cities too.

Ban new hotels

Have you heard about the new ‘iceberg hotel’ in London’s Leicester Square? It’s got a six-storey basement, so there’s a lot going on beneath the surface. This sort of gimmicky opening would never land in Amsterdam now. The city has banned new hotels in the centre altogether, encouraging development on the outskirts, spreading the benefits of tourism across the city.

Ban short-term holiday lets

We have literally no idea why you’d want to stay around De Wallen, Amsterdam’s red-light district. But until last July, hundreds of thousands of travellers did every year, exacerbating housing problems, with so much real estate given over to short-term holiday lets. Now Amsterdam has banned them outright in three central districts, and the whole city could be next.

Ban souvenir shops

Souvenir shops may seem innocent enough. But there comes a point when there are simply too many. For three years, Amsterdam has banned new tourist-oriented businesses from opening within its Canal Belt. That includes sweet stores, souvenir shops and ice-cream parlours.

Ban arseholes

Let’s be honest: the worst thing about central Amsterdam is the number of drunk/mashed idiots stumbling from Irish pub to coffeeshop. Now the city is considering barring foreign visitors from its cannabis-peddling haunts. In future, it seems, Amsterdam wants a different kind of tourist. And as for us? We could certainly do without people weeing and vomming all over our city every weekend too.

More cool plans:

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