Edinburgh urged to adopt Amsterdam-style 'Stay Away' campaign to discourage unwanted tourists
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The Dutch city, which has 21 million visitors a year, is planning a drive to discourage "nuisance" tourism and overcrowding. It will be targeted at visitors who are attracted by Amsterdam's pubs and bars as well as its cannabis coffee shops and red light district.
The latest edition of the Edinburgh Old Town Association's (EOTA) newsletter quotes an article in Forbes magazine where Sofyan Mbarki, Amsterdam’s deputy mayor, says: “The aim of the discouragement campaign is to keep out visitors that we do not want. If we love the city, we must take action now. Action is needed to prevent nuisance and overcrowding. Amsterdam is a world city, and bustle and liveliness come along with this, but to keep our city liveable we need to choose limits instead of irresponsible growth.” The EOTA adds: "Hear, hear!"
The magazine says Amsterdam consulted residents, local businesses, experts, and interest groups and concluded that there was an urgent need to reduce the amount of low-grade tourism, hence the new campaign to start in the spring. Proposals include limiting river cruises, tightening opening hours for pubs, bars, and restaurants and tackling "bachelor parties" and pub crawls.
EOTA convener Eric Drake said: "Clearly tourism is important to the Edinburgh economy but I think, as Amsterdam is saying, you have to balance that against the impact on the people of the city. Without wanting to sound snobbish, some types of tourist are better for the city or less impactful than others." He acknowledged Edinburgh did not have the same issues as Amsterdam in terms of cannabis cafes or its red light district. “For us it would probably be more about discouraging hen and stag party-type tourism.”
He welcomed the moves to control Airbnb-style short-term lets. “We’re pleased to see the requirement for them to have planning permission and the council seems to be refusing permission where it would impact on neighbours.” But he added: “It would help if the council could be a bit more responsive to complaints about noise – I know they have staffing problems, but if people are being kept awake at night it really can be very distressing.”
Before the Covid pandemic, there were claims that Edinburgh was suffering from “overtourism” in the same way as Amsterdam and cities like Rome, Venice and Barcelona. It is reported Amsterdam’s “Stay Away” campaign includes plans to limit groups of tourists of any kind from accessing the city centre. And bars and clubs in the centre could have their opening hours cut.
Mr Drake said Edinburgh’s visitor numbers post-pandemic had not yet returned to what they were. "Before Covid, the number of new hotels that were being planned, one wondered: can we really cope with all these numbers? At the moment I think things are relatively manageable. We probably just have to wait and see whether it picks up to how it was three or four years ago.”