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Amsterdam Takes Aim at Tourists in Red Light District

Condé Nast Traveler logo Condé Nast Traveler 6 days ago Katherine LaGrave
a group of people performing on stage in front of a building © Getty

Amsterdam has an overtourism problem. (So does Barcelona, and Venice, and Santorini...). But rather than try to outright curb numbers, the city been quick to offer tech-first, pro-visitor solutions, like a chatbot that will tell you what to see around town, or live feeds at popular sites so you know in real time just how busy, say, the Van Gogh Museum is. “We’re an open, tolerant city. How can you ever imagine us saying, ‘You’re not welcome here!’?” tourism chief Geerte Udo told us last year. And it's not... but it does need to tighten the reins a bit still. "Apart from existing measures, Amsterdam will now take extra action to reduce pressure on the city centre and to improve access to the 'Wallen' [the city's oldest Red Light district]," the city council said in a statement on Tuesday.

Parts of the Red Light district will be closed intermittently to clean the streets of waste, and if a "code red" is called—meaning, too many tourists in the area—council workers will walk the streets and point them in the direction of less busy areas. Police officers will also be equipped with machines that let them deliver fines on the spot (and process payments) lest you get charged for public drinking (€95, or $110); public urination, public disorderliness, or littering (€140 or $162). Mayor Femke Halsema, newly appointed in July, has also said she will ask for an increase in the number of police on duty in the Red Light district, reports Dutch News. The announcement comes a week after Amsterdam's ombudsman, Arre Zuurmond, criticized city officials for their slow response to managing the crowds, telling The Guardian the center had become an “urban jungle." Outcry from locals—over some tourists' "boorish behavior and disrespect to sex workers"—has continued to mount, too.

Amsterdam will have seen nearly 20 million tourists by the end of 2018—20 times its population, reports NPR. In 2019, Amsterdam will also begin enforcing its new Airbnb rule, which limits hosts to 30 nights of rental per year, down from the current 60. In 2017, the city also banned beer bikes, a popular activity for bachelor parties, from the city center.

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