AMSTERDAM — A group of cyclists slams on the brakes as a man pushing a wheeled suitcase stops abruptly in the middle of a busy bike path in downtown Amsterdam to pick up a toiletries bag he dropped.
“If we wait a bit longer, he’ll probably start cleaning his teeth,” one rider says to his neighbor, humor failing to mask his frustration.
It’s a scene that is emblematic of the problem of overtourism that is clogging the streets of cities like Amsterdam, Rome, Barcelona and Venice.
The Dutch capital, with its World Heritage-listed canals, narrow streets and web of alleys in its red light district, is now pushing back in an attempt to keep the city attractive to visitors and residents alike. But some say it’s not going far enough.
Overnight stays in hotels here rose from just over 8 million in 2006 to 14 million in 2016. The number of people visiting the Anne Frank House has set records seven years in a row, to nearly 1.3 million last year.
Every weekend, the heart of the city is overrun by foreigners in strip joints and seedy bars. They gawk at scantily-clad prostitutes flaunting themselves behind windows in the red-light district, and they jam cafes where marijuana is permitted.
City alderman Udo Kock has a message for the drunken revelers: “If the only reason for you to visit Amsterdam is to get loaded, to get stoned out of your mind, look, we can’t hold you back from coming, but we don’t want you here.”
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