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  • Eric Dümon

Destination Management: The Technical Term For What Is Going On

By Eric Dümon Published Sat Feb 13 2021

The technical term for what is going on at the moment is ‘destination management’. The city of Amsterdam, and many of its citizens, want to shed themselves of the sinful attractions that gave the city much attention in the past. Hence, active measures are being taken to change the touristic image and character of Amsterdam. Coffeeshops will no longer sell to tourists, and the famous Red Light District will move to a place where such wicked activities will cause less commotion amongst the good people of the Dutch capital. Gone shall be the sinful activities that denied Amsterdam a place in the club of sophisticated European cities such as Paris, Rome or Vienna, known for their good food, art and architecture, and not for drunk tourists, peeing in canals.

And, in all honesty, it truly was a mixture that was not going to work out forever. In any normal year, the city centre offered a picture of worlds colliding. Inside the beautiful houses lived the posh and wealthy Amsterdamers, in their elegant living rooms with purebred dogs sitting by their fake fireplaces. While outdoors, there was a mayhem of drunk Brits, stoned Germans and large crowds paying little attention to the cultural highlights surrounding them. Olav Ulrich, a local resident and proud member of the Local Resident Action Group, describes the city’s crisis in his interview to Al Jazeera like no one else: “It’s kind of a silly idea that people who smoke pot don’t do any harm. Of course, if you are five young people (in a car) from France or Belgium or wherever you come from… and you are excited to go to Amsterdam… you buy your pot, you buy your six pack of beer in the supermarket… and you go and hang around and do whatever you like.” What a vivid description of the floods of ghastly teenagers he offers. What horrors he must have witnessed.

All jokes aside, the push for a change in the Dutch capital’s tourism industry comes from the right place. The tourism market in Amsterdam is oversaturated and, as a result, the infrastructure, the housing market, nature, and its people suffer. But the decision to essentially ban two hallmarks of Dutch tourism is nevertheless bold. You don’t hear about the mayor of London tearing down Buckingham Palace because tourists keep messing with the guards. And like it or not, just like Prague with its cheap beer and Berlin with its clubs, weed and prostitution play a considerable role as the pull-factors of Amsterdam on the tourism market. Many other European towns also have beautiful buildings and art. And most of them have better weather…

Taking a stroll through the city centre, one cannot help but notice that the majority of shops are geared towards a very specific, very stoned or drunk type of tourist. There is a whole industry revolving around ‘sinful weekend-trip’ tourism. Of course, market forces will replace it. But before that happens, a lot of people will lose their livelihood. And afterwards? Well, Amsterdam will have to find a new niche to fill in the contested European destination market. Tourism is essential for a small country like the Netherlands. The most logical step would be to alter the city’s image as a more high-class destination. If richer tourists come, the same revenue can be earned with less crowded streets. And you certainly will not see wealthy couples munching on cheap Oreo waffles. But ask the people of Monaco or Capri if a shift to wealthy tourism has made their lives more livable. It might perhaps be more sustainable to simply regulate the existing catalogue of attractions, for example by advancing a more modern cannabis policy, or putting a cap on the monthly amount of tourists allowed to enter.

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