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Amsterdam bans new hotel developments in overtourism move

Authorities in the Netherlands’ capital and most populous city, Amsterdam, last week decided to halt any new hotel developments in their fight against overtourism. “Amsterdam will no longer be issuing permits for new hotels, except for a ‘new-for-old arrangement’ in which a new hotel may only be built if a hotel elsewhere closes and the number of sleeping places does not increase,” a municipal spokesperson told press. 

The latest in a long line of measures

The city has previously introduced a number of measures to “keep the city livable for residents and visitors”. In 2017, zoning was applied, requiring would-be developers to stick to certain neighbourhoods and to provide evidence of their sustainability credentials and how they were meeting the needs of local residents. This has slowed the number of development applications in the pipeline.

Furthermore, the city has created two “reverse-marketing” stay away campaigns, mainly targeting France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, warning would-be visitors of the dangers of over-indulgence in drink and marijuana, and designed to discourage certain large groups of rowdy tourists and behaviours. It has also banned marijuana smoking in public streets and put a stop to tours of the red-light district. The city also has a tourist tax in place and raised it from from 7% to 12.5% this year.

No more than 20 million overnight guests per year

Nonetheless, Amsterdam remains one of the world’s favourite places to visit. In 2022, it came in fifth in terms of its international visitor spend, raking in $13.6 billion, according to World Travel and Tourism Council data. In 2023, the city provided nearly 21 million overnight hotel stays, according to government figures – more than 20 times its residential population.

The “no new hotels” policy is therefore another tool being tried. Those that already have permits will not be affected by the new rules, but from now developers will only be able to gain building permits if another hotel closes. The replacement must be a like-for-like in terms of capacity, but a qualitative improvement in terms of facilities and sustainability, and must be rated a minimum of 4 European Hotel Classification stars.

A cap will also be placed on overnight stays, at “no more than 20 million hotel nights by tourists per year,” the government said, in line with its 2021 ordnance that obliges it to intervene to keep “Amsterdam Tourism in Balance,” when tourist numbers hit 18 million.