13 May 2007 - When tourist guides describe
Amsterdam, they refer mainly to the canals, the Jordaan, and the
Often de Pijp is also mentioned to add a flavour of multiculturalism,
and the Eastern Docklands because of their architecture. The rest
of the city tends to be seen as ‘outer districts’ that
tourists might as well ignore.
A couple years ago, the Amsterdam Tourism and Convention Board
decided that the districts must be developed for tourism. This was
deemed necessary in order to relieve the inner city and to ‘further
differentiate the overall tourist product Amsterdam’.
It has taken a while, but the districts have risen to the challenge.
Centrum, Oost and Zeeburg made a plan to draw tourists to the Tropenmuseum,
the multicultural shops at the Javastraat and the architecture in
Earlier, Oud-West had already presented plans to exploit its cultural
facilities and its industrial heritage. The district wants tourists
to walk around the yard of the Tettenrode Type Foundry with an audio
tour on their heads, and to have a cup of tea with artists at the
Zuidoost invests 25,000 euro in an African market. “We want
to be mentioned in the Lonely Planet, next to the Waterlooplein”,
an initiator told het Parool. And Noord tries to sell itself as
the garden of Amsterdam. “We welcome tourists, provided that
they arrive on bicycle”, district chairman Rob Post told Metro.
To many Amsterdammers, this vision of the future will be somewhat
shocking. Tourists are annoying. That they block the Damstraat is
bad enough. It would be quite another thing to have them wandering
through the entire city. It is tempting to put a fence around the
city centre, but that is not possible, for sometimes we have to
be there ourselves.
But to be honest, a city without tourists would be dull too. The
irritation caused by the behaviour of the mass tourist should not
translate into a xenophobic anti tourist attitude.
Last year, Agora magazine featured an article on dealings between
local residents and tourists in the Belgian town of Brugge. The
problems of some Bruggelings sound familiar. Tourists have no idea
that cyclists use the city as well: “You ring your bell and
they do not respond, and they are even mad that you ring!”
Author Jeroen Bryon states that Bruggelings still use the city
centre for school, work, cultural facilities and shops, but that
they increasingly avoid the area. The consequence is that shops
are more and more forced to sell articles for tourists, further
accentuating the image of a ‘touristic ghetto’. It is
a vicious circle.
The ideal city draws large numbers of tourists, but you hardly
notice them because they are absorbed by the local population.
In order to achieve this in Amsterdam we have to stop the touristic
ghettoization of the city centre by spreading tourists over the
entire city. This implies that we will have to welcome them in the
‘outer districts’ as well - even though this will take
some getting used to.
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