Amsterdam’s leaders are determined to completely shift the financial stability between citizens and travelers, and reconsider Amsterdam’s unfastened-wheeling photo as a magnet for sex- and drug-seeking travelers.
Like several other heavily visited European cities, Amsterdam skilled a dramatic pause in tourism at some stage in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the Netherlands’ borders closed and main points of interest like the Rijksmuseum emptied of the usual throngs of worldwide traffic, locals had been capable of reclaim the historic heart of the metropolis.
Now, Amsterdam’s leaders are decided to permanently shift the financial stability between citizens and tourists, and reconsider Amsterdam’s free-wheeling image as a magnet for intercourse- and drug-searching for tourists. “People who’ve lived here for a totally long term sense estranged,” says the city’s mayor, Femke Halsema. “We do not want to emerge as Venice or Dubrovnik, wherein your historical center has emerge as a closed theme park. In the destiny it must be a livable a part of the town.”
Appointed to the submit in 2018 as Amsterdam’s first girl mayor, Halsema was formerly the chief of the Dutch Green Left Party, and he or she feels her liberal political background will help her persuade the metropolis council to join her efforts to rein in the metropolis’s cannabis-allotting coffeeshops and its famous intercourse enterprise. Halsema is also presently wrestling with a housing affordability crisis: The fee of dwelling in Amsterdam has lengthy been a difficulty for economists and local officers, who point to the chronically low level of housing supply and growing affect of short-term apartment offerings like Airbnb.
Bloomberg CityLab currently talked to the 56-12 months-antique mayor about the risks of overtourism, the future of the city’s famed red light district, and why she wants Amsterdam to no longer entice people who need to take a “moral excursion.” Our communique has been gently edited and condensed.
Could you tell us about your imaginative and prescient for the city?
I think Amsterdam has usually been and goes to be an global metropolis. We rely upon international change. Many worldwide companies are based totally right here in Amsterdam. There is no change in that attitude. We love tourists in our town. They are an essential part of our neighborhood financial system also. Especially whilst tourists come for the splendor of our town, for our museums or for our night time tradition. But we do have a problem with some of the vacationers. It’s now not with tourism but with the conduct of minority of the tourists.
The quantity of travelers is any other problem. Florence welcomes 14 million tourists per 12 months, and they say it’s a bit bit too much. Barcelona welcomes 20 million tourists in line with year, and they say this is a touch bit an excessive amount of. Amsterdam welcomes 22 million travelers in line with yr, and that is a bit bit too much.
So what do you imply via too much, and by way of how a good deal does it want to go down?
I can’t give a number of. It depends on behavior or the manner travelers are spread throughout the metropolis.
We have to tackle issues. The first trouble is what I’d name the London trouble: Our city is turning into too high priced. That is also part of being an global town and having many expats dwelling right here. But it has results for the middle training. It’s very hard to find a house in Amsterdam except for the very best earning, so our middle class- instructors, law enforcement officials, humans working in fitness care- are leaving the city. We’re very alert about it. For a metropolis to live to tell the tale in the long run you want social stability and those from middle or lower instructions to additionally feel at home.
Our 2nd problem is the Venice problem: The those who live here end up estranged particularly within the metropolis middle, as it’s no longer part of their city. We ought to discover a new balance, in being a home for humans from Amsterdam and on the equal time welcoming worldwide visitors and tourists.
Is there a certain type of tourism which you don’t welcome in Amsterdam?
It’s now not a form of tourism we welcome or don’t welcome- it is a shape of conduct. What we do not welcome is folks who come right here on a vacation from morals. They specific a form of conduct they might now not specific at domestic. People coming right here to lose their morals is a trouble for us.
This is also the fault of the Dutch and Amsterdam governments of the beyond. We had been so captivated with welcoming financial and touristic hobby, specially after the 2008-2009 economic crisis. But Amsterdam has a protracted lifestyle in being very liberal and revolutionary. We had been a safe haven for many minorities and unfastened thinkers. In Amsterdam, there may be a country of thoughts of tolerance. We always argue that cannabis must be legalized and prostitution should not be criminalized. That is likewise part of Amsterdam’s records, a records that we are very proud of.
But drug culture and prostitution had been the world over commercialized. That isn’t the way it changed into intended. We need to correct the manner we advertised the city inside the final 15 years. For example, we have sex entrepreneurs and their business version is primarily based on attracting as many humans as they could from other European cities. That’s a business version I suppose is not perfect.
So Amsterdam ought to not be considered a place to visit get high? Is that some thing you need to alternate?
Yes, I think so. It’s an area wherein you must move in case you’re looking for lovely museums, or to peer the underground culture, or in case you want to attend our Pride. We don’t want our traditional liberalism to get replaced by way of conservatism. That’s now not what we are aiming for.
In latest years you have proposed enacting a few principal modifications in the metropolis’s pink light district, together with curtaining off home windows alongside the streets or even transferring prostitution out of the neighborhood entirely. Can you speak approximately the modern nation of the pink mild district?
In the past, the pink mild district changed into a safe operating area for intercourse workers. There were Amsterdammers and worldwide traffic who came for the women, however now it attracts a whole lot of those who simply stand in front of the home windows and snicker at intercourse workers. I remember that a contravention of their human rights. We do not need to criminalize prostitution. To me, it’s very vital ladies and trans people can do their paintings in secure conditions and according to human rights.
Another trouble within the crimson light district is that it creates too much noise and causes too many troubles for the people who live there. And the third problem is that it mingles with prepared crime.
That’s why you’ve proposed to to set up an “erotic middle”- relocating the prostitution to a motive-constructed website out of doors of the historical metropolis middle.
The discussion on prostitution and the crimson light district has been frozen for years; nobody desired to discuss it because it has a ethical subject matter. Are you in prefer of legalization of prostitution or against? I even have tried to make it a extra pragmatic dialogue. Here, there may be supply and call for. As lengthy as, particularly guys, visit intercourse employees, there might be sex workers. The first-rate thing we can do is give them the satisfactory working conditions to do their work.
I gave the city council four situations for the future of prostitution in Amsterdam, and that they chose the erotic middle. There are events which are interested. They need to make a festive erotic center. I always want to make the evaluation with the Moulin Rouge, wherein sexuality is a pleasing and accurate part of day by day existence. The erotic middle should have a few standing, be chic. We are inside the level of seeking out an area inside the city in which it could start. That isn’t smooth, as you may imagine. A lot of people in Amsterdam are in want of an erotic middle- but no longer of their backyard.
Relatedly, ought to you tell us about your plans on coffeeshops? [While cannabis is not legal in the Netherlands, possession up to five grams is decriminalized and licensed “coffeeshops” are allowed to sell small amounts of the drug to those over age 18.]
I assume hashish have to be legalized. I assume the warfare on tablets is best right information for organized crime. It enriches organized crime. For a long time, the Netherlands has been very powerful in keeping apart the smooth and difficult drug markets. But what we see, specially beneath the impact of international visitors, is that our hashish marketplace has grow to be massive. The quantity of coffeeshops have dropped, however call for for cannabis has risen. A lot of money is going through this market, which makes it very liable to organized crime.
I actually have requested the city council quickly to prohibit vacationers from coffeeshops. It’s going to be mentioned in September. I assume the city council won’t take delivery of my inspiration because of the global reputation of the town and because they may be very worried all those tourists will begin buying it at the streets. But I say we already have 2,000 [drug] dealers inside the historic town center, and they are there specially due to the tourists. Tourist buy their cannabis within the coffeeshops, but they purchase their dope, cocaine or something at the streets. The marketplace is already booming for dealers. It is one of the cause that tourists who are on a moral excursion come to Amsterdam, and also lots of them say, “We will no longer come anymore if we can’t visit coffeeshops.”
So is your idea to prohibit vacationers from shopping for weed at coffeeshops extra approximately tourism or crime?
Both. The mingling with prepared crime is an impact of the high call for of hashish.
Amsterdam has lately obtained quite a few foreign residents, in particular after Brexit, and some locals bitch housing prices are growing due to this influx of expats. You said you get hold of too many travelers. Is there a threshold for the amount expats you want to host as well?
We are very an awful lot in favor of global mobility and freedom of mobility. It’s very tough for me to say it truly is enough. We have a big constructing undertaking beforehand of us- we are going to construct complete new neighborhoods with 70,000 homes. We also ought to rethink mobility in the place, so it will become easier for the center and the decrease elegance to live in Amsterdam. We are already a dense town, however we see nonetheless opportunities to end up extra dense. We also are trying to opportunities to construct on water. We hope we additionally find answers there.
What are you doing to make homes greater lower priced for middle- and lower-income citizens?
We try to influence the housing market as a lot as we will, and there we differ from London or New York or other huge towns. Building groups and agencies that hire need to agree to a forty-forty-20 rule, because of this 40% social housing 40% center-elegance housing and 20% top elegance. That offers us a few possibility to maneuver the housing market.
Amsterdam has additionally been a frontrunner in regulating Airbnb. Do you suspect you need more measures to modify the enterprise and similar quick-term condominium offerings?
Yes, I suppose we still want more measures. We were able to alter Airbnb, specially inside the ancient city center, but what we do see that especially in our maximum vulnerable neighborhoods we have homes in which no person lives anymore because they lease it out. People who do live in the ones neighborhoods feel estranged. That is clearly no longer proper.
Another large concern is climate change. Are you involved approximately the future of Amsterdam in 50 to a hundred years? Some scientists say the city should look loads exceptional by then.
Amsterdam has proven itself to be a totally resilient metropolis for masses of years. It has a innovative population; we continually discover solutions. Amsterdam is built on wood sticks. Who could consider? And it is nonetheless there! So no, I’m now not worried. I do assume we have challenges- but we’ll discover solutions.
Is it easier to push your time table together with your political background? Is it easier to convince the town council on a number of your proposals?
We have a liberal city council, and yes, it’s in a conservative us of a. Amsterdam has always been a unusual location. I assume they do recognize what my reasons are. I don’t want to make Amsterdam conservative. The opposite: I am very pleased with the tolerant lifestyle in Amsterdam. For example, the commercialization of the historic city middle has pushed away the nightclubs, and that’s a pity. That need to be an area wherein all of the progressive and liberal actions of the metropolis come together. It has been such a place inside the beyond. Traditionally, it’s far an area wherein mainstream and underground Amsterdams locate every other. I need to deliver unconventional Amsterdam again.