Amsterdam was already scrambling to find ways to restrain the tourist trade before the coronavirus struck. Hefty fines for public drinking, tight restrictions on short-term rentals and outright bans on certain types of shops were implemented. But more visitors kept coming. By 2019, their numbers approached 9 million—more than 10 per resident.
Then it all stopped. For months, tourists where nowhere to be found as borders were sealed tight. Later, as infection waves receded, only a trickle returned. Overall, Amsterdam’s commercial establishments have seen almost 25% fewer visitors since Covid-19 first arrived.
Even in the red light district, the lack of drunken revelers remains apparent despite many restrictions having been lifted. Locals wander wide-eyed through a part of town they rarely visit, amazed at its architectural beauty. Among city officials, this tiny silver lining to a global health catastrophe planted a seed. While Amsterdam arguably needs tourism to survive, maybe this once-in-a-century pandemic could be used to remake how the city embraces it.
As it turned out, local officials in other tourist hotspots across Europe had the same idea.
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