Amsterdam has instructed the rebellious British sex and drug tourists to “stay away.” The city’s council has initiated a digital discouragement campaign focusing on men between the ages of 18 to 35 in the UK.
The campaign is a part of Amsterdam’s efforts to come out of its shabby reputation as Europe’s most liberal party council. There are videos of young men on the street, handcuffed by the authorities, with fingerprinted and their mugshots (police photograph) taken.
When people in Britain put terms like “stag party,” “cheap hotel,” or “pub crawl Amsterdam” on the internet, online advertisements highlighting the dangers of excessive drug and alcohol use will be activated.
The message was clear, a long weekend in the Dutch city may create unexpected memories, and the escape you look for in the famous party capital may result in something you can’t escape from. The Brits can find return flights to Amsterdam for $62.
In addition, UK’s travel agencies give stag weekends in Amsterdam, such as canal boat cruises with unlimited alcohol, “steak and strip” nights, as well as red light district pub crawls.
Over the years, people have objected to drunken British urinating in public, vomiting into the canals, stripping their clothes off, and getting into drunken fights. But this is nothing new. A decade ago, Amsterdam’s then-mayor invited then London mayor Boris Johnson to see what the British were doing. Johnson himself called the city “sleazy”.
At the time, Eberhard van der Laan said, “They don’t wear a coat as they slalom through the red light district… they sing ‘You’ll never walk alone’. They are dressed as rabbits or priests and sometimes they are not dressed at all. I’d love to invite him to witness it.”
Critics believe that the targeted ad campaigns exhibit discrimination and prejudice stereotypes.
The coffee shops in the Netherlands are allowed to sell cannabis under stringent regulations, for example, not serving or selling alcoholic drinks to minors. Joachim Helms, the owner of the Greenhouse coffee shop, said, “Tourists come for the museums and also for the coffee shops.”
Nodding towards a woman in her 60s, he said, his clients came from all social and economic backgrounds, stating that excluding people on the basis of age and gender was against the notions of freedom, tolerance, and equality that Amsterdam took pride in.
Amsterdam is among the most visited cities in the world. Including a million British, the city, which has a population of about 883,000, welcomes around 20 million visitors every year. But these visitors are upsetting the locals with their rowdy behavior which has caused the council to take action.
As a reminder to the tourists, massive billboards put up in the red light district display images of the local folk, with the words, “We Live Here”.
The council has taken the initiative of moving the famous neon-lit windows, where sex workers practice their trade, away from the residential heart of the capital and into a new “erotic zone”.
The rumors of the ban on the sex trade have cooled down for now though certain strict regulations are being enforced. Starting this weekend, brothels and bars will close early, and smoking cannabis on the streets in and around the Red Light District is to be prohibited from May onwards.
There is an ongoing debate on whether tourists are also banned from Amsterdam’s cannabis cafes.
Amsterdam aims to shape the industry to become less seedy, and sustainable, and to improve the city’s living situation. But those residing in the tall narrow townhouses that line the 17th-Century canal rings say that the problem is the numbers and not the young men.
The Visser family said, “It feels like we’re living in Disneyland or a zoo. Visitors will remain welcome but not if they misbehave and cause a nuisance.”
Deputy Mayor Sofyan Mbarki stated that Amsterdam was already enforcing more management initiatives than other cities in Europe.
On social media, people have responded to the anti-tourism campaign. A man said that it “looks more like a commercial to me” and another commented that it is a “mystery why 18-35 [year olds] would be attracted to a city with legalized drug cafes and brothels”.
While some consider the campaign to be dubious, with a woman saying, “They want to make money with families and museums but they know it’s weed and red light that keep the city running.”