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“Amsterdam is so much more than prostitution and cannabis”

“I looked at different tourism management strategies,” 12th-grader Merel says. “Since Amsterdam is such a liberal city, the main bulk of tourists come from France and the UK and they are mainly men between 20 and 30, and they go for the cannabis coffeeshops and the prostitution. So I was also looking at how Amsterdam is trying to limit those things, putting increased tax on cannabis or completely barring tourists from going into coffee shops or putting quotas on how many people can visit the red light districts, for example. These were all really good ideas, but they would raise the crime rates of tourists in different areas of the city because they would still try to come for that fix, but rather find it in an illegal manner which is not regulated by the city. That would be detrimental to the locals because that’s the bulk of the income for people whose livelihoods depend on that kind of income. That was the main conclusion.”

“I was actually really surprised by the fact that Amsterdam is so much more visited for its liberal aspects when you consider how many museums and how much historical culture there is in the city. It was also interesting for me to see how developments in technology have facilitated this: You can get a train from London to Amsterdam, it takes four hours, tickets are under 100 euros, there are budget airlines, plus the growth of Airbnb. Young people who don't necessarily have a lot of disposable income are still able to go there and use the city for all these liberal aspects. So it’s becoming kind of a negative tourism connotation, I guess. I also realized that every time I am there, you see that not that many people are there for the museums and the architecture; people are there for the weed and the prostitution and it does not create a nice environment anymore.”

That sounds pretty depressing …?
“I think it's amazing that there is a place that’s so liberal and I am proud to have that as a part of my culture. Especially because it’s done in a way that’s government-managed so it’s done safely. But it’s kind of depressing to see that people don’t go there for the museums. I’ve never lived there, but both my parents are Dutch, so I also experience Amsterdam more like a tourist: Every time I am there I want to go to the museums, I want to look at the architecture, and I want to go on a canal ride. I had a couple of interviews with one of the guys that was in charge of the destination marketing and that really challenged my Dutch skills as well, and I also had to read a lot of official documents in Dutch. I want to study there, so I got to get in touch with my Dutch side and that was really cool.”

Do you have a message for the community?
“Yes: Amsterdam is so much more than just the prostitution and the cannabis.”