When tourists return to the Dutch capital post-pandemic, they might be coming to a very different Amsterdam.
In a letter to councilors dated Jan. 8, 2021, Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema again proposed restricting coffee shops only to residents once the city reopens post-pandemic, a move that could potentially transform the city’s tourism industry.
Halsema said that the policy would both help make the city’s tourism more manageable (Amsterdam was considering the same policy in February 2020, prior to COVID-19’s impact, to help deal with overcrowding), limit “drug tourism” to the city, and make it easier to control the coffee shop supply chain in the city.
“We have seen many groups of young people who only come to Amsterdam to go to the coffee shops,” Halsema said in the letter, adding that the coffee shop tourism “causes inconvenience to residents” in the city.
Post-pandemic, Halsema wants tourists to travel to Amsterdam for “its richness, its beauty and its cultural institutions,” such as the Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, and more, rather than for cannabis, she told Dutch public TV station NOS
If the proposal passes, which could happen within a year, those wishing to participate in the city’s cannabis coffee shop scene would need a passport to enter one of the 166 locations across the city, which accounts for one-third of the coffee shops in the Netherlands.
The policy would also likely cut that number significantly, making those coffee shops a smaller part of the city’s landscape, including in the city’s Red Light District, which has become an increasingly overcrowded part of the city during peak tourist season.
Time will tell whether or not the proposal actually does pass. Similar proposals, like that one in February 2020 along with others in 2011 and 2012, have failed, but this most recent one has the support of the Mayor, who hopes to have a say in how the city is transformed post-pandemic.
One recently published study by the Dutch office for Research, Information, and Statistics, found that data supported Halsema’s proposal—34% of tourists surveyed said they would visit the city less often and 11% said they would not be back, including 44% of British tourists, 45% of French tourists, and 50% of German tourists. The study also found that tourists between the age of 18 and 35 see coffee shops as one of the main reasons they come to Amsterdam (57%).
Opponents of the proposal, and other proposals that would have restricted coffee shops in the city, including former Mayor Van der Laan, have said that the move would discriminate against other EU residents, would hurt the city’s tourism industry, and would simply push tourists to look to the city’s black market for cannabis.