The city of Amsterdam is reportedly planning to institute a tourist tax to curb the influx of visitors into the city. Tourism has increased dramatically in Amsterdam in recent years, sparking protest from locals. The city only has about 850,000 residents but hosted a staggering 17 million visitors in 2016 – and that number is forecasted to rise.
In September, residents took to the streets to protest the high volume of tourists, which has caused the city center to fill with tourist accommodations at the expense of affordable living options for locals and congested local streets. The residents chanted “Amsterdam, not for sale!” and “Whose city? Our city!” to express frustration with the tourism situation.
A concern is that a good proportion of the recent tourist influx is budget travelers. It is estimated that roughly 25 percent of Amsterdam’s 17 million visitors – close to 5 million people – stayed in budget hotels, such as hostels. Municipal officials worry that these visitors only push the orientation of the city center toward tourists, not residents, in spite of the fact that they bring little money into the city. Essentially, it is a lose-lose.
“The number of visitors will grow from 17 million to 23 million in the coming years, and that means more cleaning and a greater police presence in the streets. And I want Amsterdammers to profit from the success of the city. We need more people who actually spend money in the city,” Udo Kock, the Amsterdam city councilor responsible for finance, told the Guardian last month. “We would prefer people who stay a couple of nights, visit museums, have lavish meals at restaurants, to people who pop over for a weekend eating falafel while sauntering around the red-light district.”
Kock also said that he would be looking at ways the city could attract heavy-spending tourists as opposed to thrifty visitors.
New tax rules would be specifically targeted at budget travelers. Councilors are considering requiring that visitors pay a nightly fixed fee for every night spent in the city, which could be as much as 10 euros, plus a percentage of the hotel bill. Such a move would significantly raise the cost of a trip for budget travelers.
Amsterdam officials have tried other measures to address the tourism problem, including halting hotel development and instituting a scheme to encourage tourists to travel beyond the municipal center. However, these initiatives have had limited success, which has led the city to consider more stringent tax measures.
However, some locals are reportedly skeptical that increased taxes will actually do anything to deter tourists. They point out that the taxes are already high but the number of tourists keeps increasing. Only time will tell whether this new tax scheme will have a significant impact on tourism numbers.