Amsterdam Canals: the next 400 years

Door Ilse Hoenderdos,
op 19 januari 2015

The city of Amsterdam prospers economically from the huge foreign interest in our culture and heritage. And yet I ask myself: how much money is tourism worth to us? And how much is an authentic and pleasant living environment worth to us? Sustainability plays a role there too.

Since their renovation and reopening, the museums at Museumplein in Amsterdam are a must see according to Lonely Planet. The rest of the world seems keen to discover Amsterdam. Tourists spread throughout the city, resulting in many new hotels, restaurants, galleries and shops that take good care of this massive flow of people.

But several times I have ended up in a discussion about whether we should be happy with the number of tourists here. Most of the people I speak to seem to be content: “It’s good for the economy, it brings in money,” “Cool that international luxury hotels and retail chains want to settle in Amsterdam” and “I earn my holidays back through Airbnb.” All this is true, and I’m also happy for these reasons.

When you listen to real Parisians and Londoners, they talk about their cities being ruined by tourists – the city centers have been taken over by international chains and people from overseas. The cities have lost their uniqueness and atmosphere, local people are pushed to the edges of the city and house prices are unpayable. Londoners look with some jealousy at our city, where this has not yet happened. I fear that if we remain blinded by the extra euros we earn through tourism, we can expect the same fate. In 2013, the Financial Times suggested to invest in Amsterdam canal houses, since prices are still cheap compared to Paris and London. Having wealthy Chinese, Australians, Arabs and Russians as owners of the canal houses will lead to a change to – or, worse, the disappearance of the friendly and personal atmosphere of – the canals. Will we be happy then?

That said, the Palace of Justice is now for sale. The media call this a unique opportunity for another luxury hotel. Looking at the market, it would be a smart move to build another hotel there. The location is close to Leidseplein and Leidsestraat, a hotspot for tourists, and it’s on the Prinsengracht, an AAA location. But can’t we think of anything else instead of this? If there’s a hotel coming, please let’s use the Amstelkwartier hotel on the Amstel as a sustainable model. Groene Grachten (Green Canals), can you ensure that the canals remain green and as beloved and jovial as ever for the next 400 years? Then, I think Amsterdam will be even more interesting for tourists, and people will treat Amsterdam with more respect. Is that not what we want?

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