Amsterdam blocks construction of new hotels to fight overtourism

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In another attempt to crack down on overtourism, officials in Amsterdam are banning the construction of new hotels in the Dutch capital.

The policy, announced Wednesday, only permits new hotels in a one-in, one-out system; a new hotel can be built only if another closes. New hotels may not exceed the bed count of the previous hotels and must be “better,” per the city’s release, with more modern and sustainable features.

“Amsterdam says ‘no’ to new hotels,” reads a translated statement from city officials. “We want to make and keep the city livable for residents and visitors.”

The effort follows initiatives in Amsterdam to limit the influx of tourists into the city, a destination known for its tolerant drug policies, sex industry and liberated party scene.

In Amsterdam, people are not prosecuted for buying up to 5 grams of cannabis, which can be purchased in coffee shops. For years, city officials have been trying to rein in hordes of “nuisance” tourists, or those who are attracted to the city by the promise of a night of debauchery.

In June 2023, the city council passed the “tourism balance in Amsterdam” policy, which set a maximum number of overnight stays and day visits in the city, capping the annual visitor count at 20 million people per year. Wednesday’s guidance re-ups that regulation; the number of hotel nights in 2023 was 20,665,000, according to the city.

“We are now taking more measures to ensure that the number of hotel nights does not increase even further,” the city’s statement read.

That same year, seeking to curb the rowdy crowds of the Red Light District and offer residents a better night’s sleep, the city cracked down on public pot smoking in the streets and limited the hours of operation for certain restaurants and sex establishments.

Amsterdam also launched a “Stay Away” campaign, directly targeting British men between the ages of 18 to 35. The demographic group frequents the city for “stag” or bachelor parties, which residents say are disruptive.

Also in 2023, city officials adopted a proposal to relocate a cruise ship terminal. In addition to addressing pollution concerns, the move sought to prevent crowds of tourists from flooding the city’s center upon docking.

It’s unclear how the city plans to enforce the new hotel construction policy; according to the release, new hotels already under construction may continue. That includes 26 hotels with existing permits.

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