Amsterdam has a lot to offer visitors, from handsome architecture and fantastic restaurants to a bustling cultural scene made up of art galleries and museums.
There’s also the more notorious side to the city, where travellers looking to imbibe in life’s sensory pleasures have traditionally been able to do so easily. In addition to the news that tourists will no longer be able to take tours of the famous red light district, it has now been announced that Amsterdam is considering banning visitors from buying cannabis at coffee shops.
With a population of approximately 850,000 people, Amsterdam has struggled in recent times with the throngs of tourists that make their way there every year. In 2018 alone, 19 million people visited the city. According to The Guardian, Mayor Femke Halsema recently commissioned a survey of visitors which included questions on their relationship to coffee shops. Of 100 people aged between 18 and 35, the majority of people asked (57%) said that the city’s coffee shops played a role in their decision to come. When asked about whether or not they would return if they were unable to access coffee shops, 34% of tourists from overseas said that they were unsure, while 11% said that they would not.
With that in mind, and with over-tourism a very real issue, especially in the areas of De Wallen and Singel, where red light windows and coffee shops are prevalent, the research results have spurred questions about blocking tourists from accessing coffee shops as a way to reduce numbers.
While it is legal for coffee shops to sell cannabis, the production of the drug is illegal in The Netherlands. In a letter to the council, Mayor Halsema said that she wished to see a new study of ways to reduce the attraction of cannabis to tourists and implementations that would make the market more transparent. Earlier this year, tourist taxes were raised and tougher sanctions were imposed on renting out Airbnbs to combat over-tourism in Amsterdam.