Overcrowded Amsterdam: Striving for a Balance Between Trade, Tolerance and Tourism

Roos Gerritsma
Soort object
Amsterdam is known worldwide for its historical beauty, liberal lifestyle and tolerant atmosphere. With 860,000 residents (fewer than 90,000 living in the inner city), Amsterdam received 8.3 million hotel guests in 2017 and is urgently searching for ways to better manage its immense popularity. Its reputation is not a coincidence, but the result of the evolution of Amsterdam from a small urban trading centre into a prominent tourism city and destination, and that evolution forms the basis of this chapter. Overcrowding is one of the core issues affecting the city, and is not only caused by tourists. The city itself is rapidly expanding in terms of receiving more (temporary) inhabitants, commuters and Dutch day visitors. In such a context, the (perceived) overcrowding is clearly linked to urban mobility issues and is partly caused by tourists and touring vehicles. The number of (e)bikes (electronic bikes), scooters and the ‘loose’ traffic habits of locals themselves are also compounding the problem. Urban leisure lifestyles have changed in recent decades and have exacerbated the pressure on public spaces and parks, leading to overcrowding of (semi-) public spaces, increased littering and noise. This chapter uses the term ‘overcrowding’ rather than ‘overtourism’, as I feel it better reflects the root cause in the Amsterdam context. Overcrowding is described here as the process and results of an intensified use of (semi-) public space, which are perceived as disruptive forces by multiple stakeholders.