Tourism ‘destroying’ cities, says Amsterdam marketing head

Europe’s historic cities are “dying” from pressure of tourism, according to the head of Amsterdam Marketing, who singled out Ryanair and Airbnb for criticism.

Frans van der Avert, Amsterdam Marketing chief executive, said: “Cities are dying from tourism. No one will be living in the historic centres any more.

“A lot of smaller historic cities in Europe are getting destroyed by visitors.”

Van der Avert told the World Tourism Forum in Lucerne: “We don’t spend even €1 in marketing Amsterdam any more.

“We don’t want to have more people. We want to increase the quality of visitors – we want people who are interested in the city, not who want it as a backdrop for a party.”

“We see lots of visitors with no respect for the character of the city. Low cost carriers create a problem. Ryanair [passengers] – they are the loudest.”

He identified Barcelona, Prague and Dubrovnik as similarly affected and warned the industry faces a backlash from city residents which could determine future policies towards tourism.

“Amsterdam is not a big city – 800,000 live in the city and we have 17 million visitors a year,” he said. “When you say to local people ‘Tourism is about jobs’ they say ‘I don’t care.

“They are voters and they say ‘The visitors have to go.’”

Van der Avert added: “There are so many Airbnb rentals in the [Amsterdam] canal district that the city becomes empty.

“The sharing economy is really a big threat. Airbnb is a billion-dollar company that is destroying cities.”

He explained: “Amsterdam Marketing works for residents, businesses and visitors. We believe there has to be a balance. The city has to be liveable.

“But the balance is going. Visitors are getting more important. Business and residents are being squeezed.”

The Amsterdam city council has introduced more than 70 measures to combat tourism overcrowding, he said.

“It decided to close the cruise terminal in the city and to have no more hotels built in the city.

“To rent on Airbnb you have to register, you can have no more than four people at a time and for a maximum of 60 days, and there is fine of €20,000 [for non-compliance].

“We try to distribute visitors. We try to make the city bigger. But it’s not the solution. The people of a city make the city. Inhabitants are key to the marketing strategy.”

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