UK tourists to Netherlands down 22% after Amsterdam campaign urging Brits to stay away

Fewer people are arriving from the UK than before the pandemic

Benjamin Parker
Tuesday 07 November 2023 07:49 GMT
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Related video: Amsterdam urges rowdy Britons to 'stay away' in tourist campaign

Visitors to the Netherlands from Britain have dropped this year, months after a campaign to discourage disruptive tourists from travelling to Amsterdam went live.

The number of arrivals from the UK is down 22 per cent compared to 2019, the last year of unrestricted travel before the coronavirus pandemic.

Since March 2023, travellers attracted to the Dutch capital’s permissive culture, which includes its red-light district and cannabis cafes, have been encouraged to go elsewhere.

The online campaign is triggered when people in Britain enter keywords into search engines, such as “stag party Amsterdam”, “pub crawl Amsterdam” and “cheap hotel Amsterdam”.

Warning videos pop up, featuring young men staggering in the street, being handcuffed and fingerprinted and having their mugshots taken, and describing the risks and consequences of excessive drug and alcohol consumption: fines, hospitalisation, a criminal record and permanent health damage.

Amsterdam remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, with around 20 million visitors each year. In 2019, 2.4 million of these were British.

Beverley Boden, head of the department for aviation, tourism, finance and marketing at Teesside University International Business School, told The Independent: “The Dutch government has taken a unique approach to managing the swarms of people big European cities experience, and may seem contradictory, especially at a time when tourist bodies are battling to raise the number of visitors coming in.

“The Dutch approach shows it is possible to prevent rowdy tourists from coming over, and may serve as an effective blueprint for other countries looking to do the same. However, tourism is often a fundamental industry to a country’s economy, such as Spain, and any dip in visitor numbers can have a traumatic effect on an intricate and interdependent network of operators, hotels, vendors, attractions, and restaurants.

“Obviously, people are still free to fly to Amsterdam to enjoy the city as they please. This might invite a calmer kind of tourist as opposed to the so-called ‘louts’ that cause inner-city mayhem. The Dutch way certainly shows others that it is possible to shift the demographic of who arrives into the country which may, in the end, be better for other kinds of tourists.”

New data, studied by travel industry trends analysts ForwardKeys, shows global arrivals into the Netherlands have fallen, reports The Times. As well as the campaign to discourage certain tourists, experts have blamed a cap on the number of flights introduced at Schiphol airport, located just outside Amsterdam and one of Europe’s busiest aviation hubs.

“The Netherlands has put a cap on air connectivity,” said Olivier Ponti, vice-president of insights at ForwardKeys.

“That is obviously a hurdle and they have launched demarketing campaigns telling people to stay at home.

“Then there’s the flight cap, which is designed to help the wellbeing of residents and the environment. If your idea is to reduce inbound traffic, the most effective way is to limit the number of flights.”

In an effort to reduce noise pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, flights into Schiphol will be capped at 452,500 per year – which is 9.5 per cent lower than 2019 levels. The Dutch flag carrier KLM has condemned the cap as “incomprehensible”.

Announcing the new rules in September, the Netherlands’ transport minister Mark Harbers said that “aviation can bring the Netherlands a lot that’s good, as long as we pay attention to the negative effects for people that live near the airport”.

The restriction is scheduled to go into effect in 2024, pending approval from the European Commission.

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