Amsterdam coffeeshops are in shock at low tourist numbers this summer

Amsterdam coffeeshops are in shock at low tourist numbers this summer

A view towards the Oudezijds Voorburgwal is lined with coffeeshops in Amsterdam.

Thomas Emo | Photo library | Getty Images

Amsterdam has long been an attraction for millions of tourists from Europe and beyond, many drawn to the city for its canals, architecture and museums and, of course, its many cannabis-laden coffeeshops and pristine sex. Industry.

But Europe’s so-called ‘city of sin’ has not remained the same since the Covid-19 pandemic, with tourism numbers dropping sharply from previous years, when the Dutch capital may s’ expect millions of visitors a year.

While many locals love that they can walk and cycle around their city without dodging the crowds of tourists, Amsterdam businesses that depend on visitors – like coffeeshops, where cannabis is sold freely can be bought and sold. – the pinch is being felt, and there are fears that local authorities will soon toughen new crackdowns against their foreign clients.

“It was definitely a quiet year,” Ben, who works at Barney’s cafe, told CNBC on Wednesday. “It’s obvious [it’s better] With Corona compared to last summer[virus], but this year it started to get busy but it’s still nothing compared to previous years. The only truly French tourists who arrive are French and German, not a lot of English, plus a lot of Italians.

“I think now that the school holidays are over I don’t think much is going to happen,” he said.

The Dutch tourism industry is still recovering and has a long way to go before it sees pre-Covid activity levels.

In the second quarter of 2021, the habitat and catering activity increased by 52.6% in the same quarter of 2020 (period covering the first confinement). However, it was more than 35% smaller compared to the second quarter of 2019, according to August data from Statistics Netherlands, which said “pre-Covid levels are still far away.”

A customer buys marijuana at a cafe in downtown Amsterdam on January 8, 2021. –

Evert Elzinga | AFP | Getty Images

Mike, the customer and retail manager of Green House, which owns several coffeeshops in Amsterdam, said that when the country reopened and the restrictions were lifted, business had grown but was still at its peak.

“The cafes in the center are busy again… in the form of social distancing between tables and the use of outdoor terraces,” he told CNBC on Wednesday.

Mike mentioned that the coffeeshop had “suffered a lot” over the past 18 months during the COVID-19 lockdown. Dutch authorities initially announced that coffeeshops would be closed on short notice when the country’s first lockdown began last spring.

However, after lines formed outside the coffeeshop, the government quickly changed course. Customers wanted to stop supply before the shutdown, and officials feared cannabis sales would quickly hit the streets and allow the illegal and unregulated drug trade to flourish.

In the Netherlands, it is illegal to sell drugs, but the Dutch government tolerates the sale of soft drugs in coffeeshops, which are strictly regulated.

Yet although they are allowed to remain open, opening hours have been shortened and travel restrictions have prevented a large part of their customers, tourists, from traveling until this summer, when the Netherlands have started to visit some countries.

However, there are still restrictions for visitors from certain countries with high COVID rates (like many, the Netherlands has designated other countries with a red, orange and green traffic light system based on the rates of COVID. cases) and for some PCR tests and quarantine rules. , still stopping many tourists.

the local population enjoys the peace

Many locals are tired of the group of young tourists who come to Amsterdam for soft drug tours and have appreciated the low numbers over the past 18 months.

Likee, an Amsterdam resident with a young daughter, told CNBC she would enjoy the quiet town, but didn’t think the cafes should be a no-go zone for tourists, noting that “they would buy it anyway. “, which was illegal and was taken with it. Other risks, and the ban on tourists would be discriminatory.

It is illegal to smoke cannabis outdoors in some parts of Amsterdam.

Marcel Antonis | AFP | Getty Images

Otto, an economics professor who also lives in Amsterdam, agreed that as a local, “screaming and choking” (stoned and drunk) instead of struggling with tourists “going back to his center- city ​​”. Getting “was great.

“It was a lot nicer to cycle around town, without tourist cyclists with little cycling experience… Overall things were actually a lot nicer,” he said.

When asked if coffeeshops are causing problems for tourists, Otto bluntly replied, “Yes. The tourists who flock exclusively to the shops are generally not good company. “

In particular, he said, Amsterdam had a problem with young tourists, who they said “feel too confident because they can legally smoke weed, despite this and because of their young age. , you have to give them the right amount “. I find it hard to take. “

more crop, less weeds

The capital of the Netherlands attracts a wide range of tourists – from the inevitable groups of young people keen to check out the city’s coffeeshops to bachelor parties that make De Wallen, Amsterdam’s main red light district a must-visit.

But the city also attracts culture enthusiasts who are eager to visit the city’s museums and stroll along its picturesque canals, while soaking up the city’s uniqueness. Local authorities seem keen to clean up the city’s image as a party town and instead want to attract more of the latter group of tourists to the city.

Tourists visit Amsterdam’s red light district

SOPA Pictures | LightRocket | Getty Images

Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema has proposed that some major tourist attractions – red light districts and coffeeshops – be banned.

Halsema proposed that the city’s red light district be moved out of the city to a purpose-built “erotic center” and that foreign tourists be banned from the city’s coffeeshops, which could be affected by such proposals. Not impressed enough.

“They’re going to shoot themselves in the foot [if they do that]“It’s not a good idea at all,” said Ben of Barney’s Coffeeshop. “They’re going to lose half of Amsterdam’s charm over the past 20 years. It’s not just the coffeeshops that are going to suffer, it’s the hotels, the fast food outlets, everything.

Likewise, Mike of the Greenhouse Coffeeshop Group said such proposals to ban foreign tourists were “ridiculous” and “would lead to a huge reduction in tourism.”

“I think it’s wrong to focus on tourists who come here and go to coffeeshops, because pretty much everyone who comes to Amsterdam is, at some point, interested in going to a coffeeshop, even just for coffee. They just want to experience what it is. And if you go to one of our cafes, it’s not just young English people who are drunk, in fact most smokers don’t even drink.

“The culture has changed over the past 10 years, and we see all ages in our coffeeshops, from 70 to 20 and people in business suits coming after work to rest for half an hour.”

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