Wednesday, March 31, 2021

"At this point we’re missing our tourists again. But I think there was a moment of really big joy in getting our city back."

Said the owner of an Amsterdam restaurant, quoted in "In Empty Amsterdam, Reconsidering Tourism/Before Covid-19, the city was packed with visitors. Now efforts to rein in the expected post-pandemic crowds are ramping up, but not without controversy" (NYT). 

In 2019, a record-breaking 21.7 million people visited Amsterdam, a city with a population of about 870,000.... On a typical Saturday night before the pandemic, the district, known as De Wallen, would have been heaving with young men going from bar to bar — perhaps stepping into sex shops or coffee shops or eyeing scantily clad prostitutes posing in their windows.

Several Amsterdammers interviewed for this story said that they would never consider visiting the neighborhood at such a time because of the rowdy, crowded scene. “The public space is dominated by facilities that are almost all redolent of sex, drugs and drink,” Ms. Halsema wrote of the historic city center in an official letter to the city council in July 2019....

[One proposed solution is] the relocation of sex workers to a “prostitution hotel” elsewhere in the city... Another headline-grabbing proposal... would make it illegal for visitors to buy cannabis in Amsterdam’s coffee shops, which are concentrated in the Red Light District and which have long been popular with tourists...

A tourism “monoculture” has [pushed out] residents... Businesses and services that used to cater to locals — high-quality bakeries, butcher shops, and the like — have been replaced by trinket shops, ice-cream parlors and “Nutella shops,” which serve takeaway waffles and other treats smeared in the hazelnut spread, mainly to tourists. Meanwhile, rising housing prices — due, in part, to the rise of Airbnb and other vacation rental platforms — have made the city center unaffordable for many locals.

I went to Amsterdam, solo, in 1993. I was interested in the art, and I had my pen and notebook. I never set foot in a marijuana coffee shop, and I tried to move quickly past the sleazier things, but I did stop to record some of the sleaziness:

Amsterdam Notebook.

Amsterdam Notebook. 

The fabulous aesthetic pleasures of the historical city with its grand museums was undermined by some awful, ugly junk even back then, nearly 30 years ago, so it is hard for me to imagine what the residents are complaining about today, which is the crowds and worsening conditions of the last few years.

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