Amsterdam for tourists – Anne Frankhouse, Vondel Park, Dam Square, Van Gogh, a selfie with a canal, some fries with mayonnaise- seems about right, no?
According to the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions (NBTC) 19 million foreign tourists visited the Netherlands in 2018. By 2030, this number is expected to reach 29 million. Unsurprisingly, the majority of visitors head for Noord-Holland, and in particular Amsterdam. CBS (The Dutch Central Bureau for Statistics) cites that the capital city hosted 37 per cent of all foreign guests in 2017.
While there’s no doubt that this rise in tourism has brought prosperity to the city, it’s also true that such large numbers of visitors can also cause tension between locals and tourists.
The question then is how to find a balance. How to make Amsterdam a pleasant place to live as well as a vibrant and exciting tourist destination.
The Untourist Movement: Marry a stranger
Enter The Untourist Guide to Amsterdam an alternative tourist guide published just last week. Alongside the book is The Untourist Movement Amsterdam, a group of more than 200 social-entrepreneurs, city-guides, hostels and hotels committed to changing Amsterdam’s tourist scene for the better.
As the name suggests the movement invites tourists to ‘Be more than a visitor, become a changemaker’. The road to becoming a ‘changemaker’ is, as it turns out, not quite what you might expect. An afternoon collecting bottlecaps for Skateboard manufacturer WasteBoard, Weed Dating and refugee-guided canal tours are just some of the ways visitors are encouraged to discover little-known sides of the city and connect with its residents. If none of these activities tickles your fancy, perhaps a sham-wedding is more to your liking. Arguably Untourist’s most off-the-wall offer, for €100 you can marry an Amsterdammer for a day. Outfits, wedding set, speech, picture and rings all included.
This movement is one of many that have popped up in recent times in an effort to change Amsterdam’s tourism scene. In 2018 Enjoy&Respect was launched, a campaign aimed at tackling the offensive behaviour of party-goers in the city. The message Enjoy&Respect endeavours to spread is that while creativity, innovation and freedom are valued in Amsterdam there is a limit to this freedom and the mutual-respect, often disregarded by some tourist groups, is just as important to the city. In particular, the campaign focuses on Dutch and British tourists aged between 18 – 35 years old, employing the use of both traditional billboards and posters as well as using social media to spread the message.
The Untourist Movement has been a hit so far, receiving praise from locals and tourists alike. Founders of the group hope that their activities and ethos will ‘contribute to the city, its people and to the world at large.’ While this may seem like a pretty big aim, there might just be something behind it. By offering visitors experiences organised by local pioneers, the Untourist Movement creates a platform for residents to grow their own businesses while allowing tourists to tap into an Amsterdam overlooked by mass tourism. Both sides of the coin benefit from this positive experience, and for visitors, it’s likely that this alternative, impact-conscious style of tourism will influence their travels in other Dutch cities and even further afield. So maybe Untourist’s aim isn’t so far fetched after all!
What do you think? Let us know in the comments!