Back in 2014, Amsterdam became the first city to have what is referred to as a “night mayor.” And at the time, including here on this blog, this was generally viewed as a pretty progressive thing to do. It recognized that there is an important nighttime economy and that, with the right leadership, it be harnessed for broader economic development purposes. As a result, many cities followed suit and appointed their own night mayors. (Toronto did not, despite my repeated posts.)
But fast forward to today and things feel different. Night mayors aren’t talked about as much in city building circles. And Amsterdam is actually trying to limit overall tourism growth. It is working to relocate its Red Light District to outside of the city center and it hopes to reduce the amount of people who come to the city just to misbehave. To be clear, it still wants tourists; it just wants more people who do things like go to museums:
The Netherlands’ capital plans to launch a deterrence campaign later this month aimed at tourists who go wild during their visits. In addition to new ads, the city has proposed rules in its infamous Red Light District, such as a ban on smoking marijuana in the street, earlier weekend closing times for bars, clubs and sex-work establishments and reduced alcohol sales.
Amsterdam’s liberal rules for drugs and prostitution have long attracted travelers looking to let loose, but officials say they are taking it too far and harming the quality of life for residents.
This is an interesting situation because usually the problem is, “how do we get more tourists to come and visit our city? Should we maybe build a casino or a Ferris wheel or something else equally as big?” Instead, the problem here is, “we have way too many drunk and annoying tourists. How do we swap them for more cultured visitors?” Of course, one solution is to just tell people that they are annoying and that they should stop coming. And that’s generally what the ad campaigns plan to do.
An alternative approach might be to celebrate all of the other things that one can do in Amsterdam.