Amsterdam seeks creative ways to stem flood of visitors

Amsterdam has become a victim of its own success, with the flow of sightseers flocking to the city growing by some 5 per cent each year. The number of visitors is expected to hit 30 million by 2030.
Amsterdam has become a victim of its own success, with the flow of sightseers flocking to the city growing by some 5 per cent each year. The number of visitors is expected to hit 30 million by 2030.PHOTO: MATTHEW PHAN

Alternative lodgings elsewhere, online ticket sales with timed entries among efforts used

THE HAGUE • Some 17 million visitors flock to Amsterdam every year, but the tide of tourists is now threatening to swamp the historic city famous the world over for its picturesque canals.

Many residents and politicians have decided enough is enough, and are seeking creative ways to control the deluge. With the number of visitors set to reach 30 million by 2030, it's a flood that threatens to overwhelm the Dutch city known as the Venice of the North.

Today, Amsterdam, which grew from a small fishing village into a major trading hub in the 16th and 17th centuries, has become a victim of its own success. Every year the flow of sightseers flocking to the city of 165 canals grows by some 5 per cent.

Visitors spend about €10 billion (S$15.5 billion) a year in the Netherlands and the tourist industry supports over 100,000 jobs in Amsterdam.

It has invested almost €12 billion in improving its cultural offerings - from a renovation of the Rijksmuseum, home to Rembrandt's haunting painting The Night Watch, to the new waterfront Eye film museum to the secret church built in a private house in 1663 and now opened as the Museum of Our Lord in the Attic.

But the result has spawned eye-poppingly long queues outside the biggest attractions with visitors to some places such as the Anne Frank House waiting several hours.

LONG QUEUES AND FRAYED TEMPERS

We have to ensure that we don't exceed the levels of visitors that we've reached and seize the problem by its horns. 

MS MARJOLEIN MOORMAN, leader of the city's opposition labour PvDA party, offering suggestions to control tourist numbers.

For the city's 830,000 permanent residents, fed up with litter-strewn streets and clogged roads, the tourist numbers risk becoming a major annoyance.

So much so that Amsterdam officials recently decided to "make some savings" in its marketing budget, according to Socialist Party leader Daniel Peters.

Mayor Eberhard van der Laan has appealed to visitors to seek accommodation in other often overlooked cities such as Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht, which have good train links with Amsterdam.

"We have to ensure that we don't exceed the levels of visitors that we've reached and seize the problem by its horns," said Ms Marjolein Moorman, leader of the city's opposition labour PvDA party. "If tour buses, beer bikes and bicycle taxis are all trying to get through, the streets are too small. That can cause people to lose their tempers."

Among her solutions would be to bar large tour buses from the centre; better track private apartments let to vacationers via such sites as Airbnb, cutting the number of days they can be sublet a year to 30 from 60; and cut museum queues.

Some attractions are already trying to promote more online ticket sales, giving visitors a timed window for entry.

The city also wants to attract more people outside of the summer season, with such things as the Christmas winter light show along the canals.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2016, with the headline 'Amsterdam seeks creative ways to stem flood of visitors'. Print Edition | Subscribe