Amsterdam Restricts Numbers of New Hotels – AFAR Media

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Over the past few years, Amsterdam has implemented highly publicized measures to combat the mass tourism problems that have plagued the capital city.

Those initiatives include 2023’s “Stay Away” campaign squarely aimed at “nuisance tourists” coming to the city specifically for drugs or rowdy bachelor parties. A ban on tours in the red-light district went into effect on January 1, 2020. As of May 2023, it’s no longer allowed to smoke marijuana on the streets of several neighborhoods. And in July 2023, the city voted to ban cruise ships in the city center (the ordinance has yet to go into effect).

Yet the crowds keep coming. In 2023, Amsterdam recorded a whopping 20.67 million overnight stays in the city’s hotels—a figure that doesn’t include vacation rentals, bed-and-breakfast stays, or cruise nights. Amsterdam’s current population is approximately 1.2 million residents.

That influx in travelers has led to a new round of recently announced measures aimed at curbing those figures, most notably a rule that essentially bans the construction of new hotels, according to a recent statement from the city council. Other measures include slashing the number of river cruise moorings per year from 2,300 to 1,150 within the next five years.

These initiatives are part of numerous efforts city officials are making in an ongoing bid to control the problems of overtourism, as reported by DutchNews and other media outlets.

“We want to make and keep the city livable for residents and visitors,” the city council’s statement said. “This means: no overtourism, no new hotels, and no more than 20 million hotel nights by tourists per year.”

The elegant Pulitzer Suite at the Hotel in Amsterdam with plush, antique-style furnishings, high ceilings, and a chandelier hanging above the bed

The elegant Pulitzer Hotel in Amsterdam is set within two dozen 17th- and 18th-century Dutch houses.

Courtesy of Pulitzer Hotel

The newest hotel initiative, which tightens the city’s existing policy, established in 2017, has some exemptions. Most notably, it doesn’t apply to forthcoming hotels that have already obtained a permit (currently, there are 26 such projects in the works, according to the city’s statement). In addition, a new hotel may open only if another closes, and the new property cannot accommodate more guests than its predecessor could and must operate more sustainably than the hotel it replaces.

These newly announced measures are part of a much broader plan to battle mass tourism and polish the city’s image as one more focused on arts and culture instead of vice. In July 2021, the city council approved an ordinance called “Tourism in balance in Amsterdam,” which sets a limit of 20 million visitors per year, including overnight stays and day visits. Once the number of visitors hits 18 million annually, the city is obliged to intervene with additional measures along the lines of those it has recently implemented.

Will nearby Zaandam and Haarlem be the new hotel hot spots?

Some hoteliers were surprised—and somewhat confused—to learn about additional restrictions on hotels, reported by local media following the announcement in mid-April. Remco Groenhuijzen, general manager of the Mövenpick Hotel Amsterdam City Centre, says the hotel ban felt like “an old story” considering that the city established restrictive rules around hotel construction seven years ago.

Since then, only three hotels have submitted proposals to the city that met its requirements, according to the New York Times.

Groenhuijzen, who is also chairman of Luxury Hotels of Amsterdam, an association of 24 four- and five-star hotels, notes that the effect of a stricter hotel ban could have some unintended consequences. He says it could prompt investors to consider areas outside of Amsterdam, such as Amstelveen and Haarlem, to build new properties—whose guests would still visit the city, thanks to the excellent public transportation system.

A group of windmills in Zaandam, Netherlands, with cloudy skies above

Scenic Zaandam is just a short train ride from Amsterdam.

Photo by Luca Cavallin/Unsplash

“If you go to Zaandam, for instance, you take the train, and it’s five minutes to [Amsterdam] Central Station,” Groenhuijzen says. “That’s the effect you will get, actually.”

In addition, he notes that by limiting supply, demand—and, as a result, prices—for hotel rooms will likely increase, which could then restrict certain tourists who want to visit for the right reasons. “At one point, full is full, and you will see that the prices will go up,” he says. “So there’s also a certain segment [of tourists] not coming to Amsterdam. Young people who want to come to the Rijksmuseum, they should also have an affordable room.”

Whether the city’s most recent initiatives to combat the downsides of its popularity (e.g., packed streets in the city center, a lower quality of life for some residents, a diminished visitor experience) are effective remains to be seen. Yet, with tulip season winding down and the weather finally warming up, Amsterdam is already clamoring with crowds.

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