Bye bye ‘beer bike’? Amsterdam determined to tame tourism

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Amsterdam unveiled plans on Wednesday to rein in tourism, reflecting the dissatisfaction of many residents who feel the city’s ancient center has been overrun.

FILE PHOTO: Cyclists ride on a bridge in central Amsterdam, Netherlands, December 1, 2017. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

The leading Green-Left and other parties negotiating a new municipal government after a local election in March vowed to return “Balance to the City”, in a document of that name seen by Reuters that amounts to part of a governing pact.

“The positive sides of tourism such as employment and city revenues are being more and more overshadowed by the negative consequences” including trash and noise pollution, the document said.

Changes the document outlines include curtailing “amusement transportation” such as multi-person “beer bikes”, cracking down on alcohol use in boats on the canals, further restricting AirBnB and other home rentals, and a large tax hike.

FILE PHOTO: Tourists pose for photos outside the Rijksmuseum in central Amsterdam, Netherlands, December 1, 2017. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

The plans announced on Wednesday also include creating an inventory of all commercial beds in the city, to try to cap various sectors such as those on cruise ships and in hotels.

With a population of around 800,000, the city expects 18 million tourists in 2018, an increase of 20 percent from 2016 levels, many drawn by an edgy atmosphere generated by readily available soft drugs and the “red light” sex zone.

FILE PHOTO: Dam Square is pictured in this aerial shot of Amsterdam, Netherlands, June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Cris Toala Olivares/File Photo

Anti-tourist and anti-expatriate sentiment have been steadily on the rise in Amsterdam, as both are blamed in part for helping drive housing prices increasingly out of the reach of ordinary Dutch people.

The average apartment in Amsterdam cost 407,000 euros ($475,000) in 2017, an increase of around 12 percent from 2016 levels, according to national real estate association NVM.

The change of emphasis has already started from national government over the past years, to try to dissuade visitors from the more earthy pastimes the city is famous for.

Advertising campaigns have focused on the city’s canals, the Anne Frank House, the museums packed with Van Gogh and Rembrandt’s greatest works.

Legislators have helped the re-branding by shutting a third of the city’s brothels in 2008 and starting a program to close marijuana cafes near schools in 2011.

“Amsterdam is a city to live and work in – it’s only a tourist destination in the second place,” the municipal document said.

($1 = 0.8489 euros)

Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Alison Williams

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