Headlines are being dominated by the decision to ban cruise ships from Amsterdam city centre. Yes, the world is changing, but it’s hard not to feel as though Amsterdam city council has jumped the gun, says Calum Brown.
Quite frankly, employing the cruise industry as a scapegoat in matters regarding pollution and excessive visitor numbers makes for a false economy.
Although Dutch politicians claim that cruise ships are not in line with the city’s sustainable ambitions, this raises further questions.
It’s obvious that governing bodies are clamping down on mass tourism, but where does that leave the economy and local infrastructure?
Amsterdam perches towards the top of Europe’s cost-of-living index. Residency costs more than 85 per cent of cities in the world.
Consumer costs are higher than those in Los Angeles and eating out costs almost twice as much as Singapore’s priciest venues.
Can local businesses and Amsterdam’s people therefore cope with that lack of high-paying tourism? More importantly, what about the jobs related to mass tourism?
Redundancies could stem from the closure of Amsterdam’s central cruise terminal on the River IJ – near Amsterdam’s main train station.
The direct result could pose higher taxation for local residents, especially as millions of Euros are required for the continued cleansing effort that Amsterdam is currently undergoing.
Amsterdam: A victim of its own success?
Some would say that Amsterdam has become too successful a player in the tourism market. The city’s hardcore image draws annual visitors of more than 20 million people, and centre-right party D66 don’t like that.
They also don’t care for the perception that Amsterdam mostly attracts sordid groups seeking a good time.
In a bid to scrub the streets clean, the council has already banned cannabis smoking on the streets of the red-light district.
In March this year, an online campaign appeared to be urging youngsters of Britain to seek entertainment elsewhere, while plans have been announced to move nightclubs into abandoned tunnels and industrial buildings outwith the city.
Cruise ships have become the ultimate symbol of the issue.
More than 100 vessels moor up in the Dutch capital every year, attracting attention from the likes of D66’s Ilana Rooderkerk, who runs the city alongside environmentalists and the Labour party.
“Cruise ships in the centre of the city don’t fit in with Amsterdam’s task of cutting the number of tourists,” Rooderkerk has been quoted as saying.
Mayor Femke Halsema took a similar approach, claiming that cruise tourists opted to eat at international chains and largely ignored the city’s culture, absorbing Amsterdam but not putting anything back into the economy.
Cruise takes the blame
Not everyone thinks like that, however. Various Amsterdam officials haven’t taken kindly to harsh comments about cruise tourists, but they can’t be seen to argue in the face of pollution concerns.
And that’s the key reason for banning these ships, it seems; to boost political morale through environmentalism and find a scapegoat.
I cannot imagine that shop owners and museum patrons have ever bemoaned about the footfall from cruise passengers, especially when they pay the prices and help pay the bills.
It’s difficult to make claims against the environmental grain, though. Especially when a 2021 study found that one large cruise ship pumped the same levels of NOx (nitrogen oxides) into the air in 24 hours as 30,000 trucks.
Yet, with 52.5 million people using Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport per annum, at an average of 163kg worth of Co2 per return flight, is the aviation sector any better?
So, to future plans.
Cruise ships should still be able to get close to Amsterdam, but no mooring sites have been talked about yet. It’s apparently all been under consideration for some time, but no official decisions or announcements have been made.