Amsterdam mayor urges extreme caution over return of tourism to the city

An information sign reads in Dutch: 'Pay attention! Keep your (1.5-meter) distance, also in the park' as people enjoy the pleasant weather at the Vondelpark in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. EPA-EFE/REMKO DE WAAL

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Amsterdam is in no  rush to welcome back international tourists, according to its mayor. Femke Halsema who has sparked anger in the hotel industry by warning the city should be “extremely cautious” about restarting tourism, saying there is not enough space for its 800,000 inhabitants, plus the normal nine million overnight visitors, and for social distancing to be respected.

“I hear you talking about international tourism, and I know that there are 55,000 hotel beds waiting for guests, too,” she told a digital council meeting on Tuesday. “But in the coming time we need to be extremely cautious about stimulating regional, national and international traffic. If we do this excessively, we run the risk that Amsterdam becomes the fireplace for a second wave [of infection].

The Dutch have had a relatively-mild “intelligent lockdown” since 15 March, closing education, hospitality and the museum sector, introducing a 1.5m distance rule and banning meetings of more than three adults. Hotels could stay open, but leisure travel was discouraged. Following EU advice, non-essential travel into the Netherlands is banned until 15 June, but the country began a phased reopening on 11 May, when the death rate levelled and primary schools restarted part time.

Although restaurants, cafes and bars can reopen from 1 June, with limits on numbers, regional authorities can interpret national legislation. But Halsema warned that, unlike Rotterdam, Amsterdam has a lot of canals and a large population. “We have a surprising shortage of public space, so I urge caution,” she said.

Meanwhile, other tourism experts, including Geerte Udo, director of amsterdam&partners, have said the city only wants the “right” tourists in future, suggesting that it might have to look hard at what places, such as the red-light district, currently offer. Investigations are ongoing into dissuading cannabis tourism and changing the prostitution windows.

Read more via The Guardian

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