It has been a stressful summer in Europe, with the continent welcoming a surge of tourists, with an average growth of 15 percent in countries like Iceland, Portugal, Malta, Finland, and Bulgaria, among others. Citizens in cities across Europe weren’t very pleased with this rising tourist numbers, in spite of the fact that it has meant an increase in citywide revenues. Earlier this week and partially as a response to the city being overtaken by tourists, Amsterdam announced plans to increase taxes on tourists by as much as €10 ($12) per night. The tax will be added to their accommodation bill in what the city has said is an effort to limit stag weekends and younger tourists with low purchase power, allowing residents to reclaim their streets.
Last year, the Dutch capital, which is home to 850,000 people, received about 17 million tourists. Tourism has become a burden that the city is no longer tolerating – especially after the municipality found out that more than 25 percent of these tourists stay in budget hotels, bringing limited cash into the municipal fund.
With that data, the city councillor responsible for finance, Udo Kock, decided he’s going to squeeze out low-spending tourists in favor of the heavier spenders. “We need more people who actually spend money in the city,” Kock said. “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.”
“The taxes are already high for tourists,” said Rick Aalders, 28, a hotel manager in downtown, who neither believes the taxes will change Amsterdam to the better, nor that they will decrease the number of tourists. “Are people really going to stop coming because of a rise in taxes? I don’t think so. We have growth in numbers of 7 percent to 8 percent every month. I think the tax rise is about making money… But it is true that everyone is moving out. On our street, a house will cost €700,000 and most people can’t get a mortgage for that, so everyone is moving to other cities.”
Earlier this month, protesters took to the streets carrying banners and megaphones chanting, “Amsterdam, not for sale!” and “Whose city? Our city!” Amsterdam is not alone in protesting the impact of tourists on the city, though. Last September, locals in Venice protested the water pollution caused by big cruise ships as well as the rising cost of living caused by tourism. “Certain European destinations are suffering under the strain of excessive tourism,” say analysts at Euromonitor International. “It is obvious that strategies are needed to cope with a large tourism demand.” For its part, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee has expressed “extreme concern” about the impact of the tourism boom on Venice’s historical sites.
But Amsterdam isn’t the only city in Europe to take measures to limit visitors to higher-spending tourists. In August, Germany introduced a tax on tourists staying in Frankfurt, expecting the legislation to add €5 million ($5.9 million) to the city’s funds. Frankfurt’s tourists will pay a lower tax in comparison with Amsterdam’s – €2 per night when staying in an accommodation such as hotels, hostels and even private apartments with providers such as Airbnb – although business tourists are exempt from the tax. If the Municipal Assembly passes the bill, the new tourist tax will be applied in the German city as of January 2018.