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Cruise Lines Cancel Amsterdam Calls Over Tourist Tax
Cruise Lines Cancel Amsterdam Calls Over Tourist Tax
Amsterdam Bans Red Light District Tours, Sold as Shore Excursion on Cruises
Amsterdam (Photo: Yasonya/Shutterstock.com)

Amsterdam Bans Red Light District Tours, Sold as Shore Excursion on Cruises

Amsterdam Bans Red Light District Tours, Sold as Shore Excursion on Cruises
Amsterdam (Photo: Yasonya/Shutterstock.com)

October 10, 2019

Natalie Pompilio
Contributor
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(2:20 p.m. EDT) -- Amsterdam is banning all tours of its Red Light District as part of an ongoing effort to address tourist congestion and to show respect for the city's sex workers. Tours of the city's Red Light District are popular excursions offered by many cruise lines -- oceangoing and river -- as well as independent tour operators.

Each week, more than 1,000 guided tour groups pass through Oudekerksplein, the Red Light District's main square, according to the city. During peak hours -- between 11 a.m. and noon, and 7 and 8 p.m. -- more than 25 groups routinely crowd the area, disturbing businesses and residents.

The implementation will be gradual: As of April 1, guides will be forced to end tours by 7 p.m. as opposed to 11 p.m. The full ban goes into effect on January 1, 2020.

"We are banning tours that take visitors along sex workers' windows, not only because we want to prevent overcrowding in the Red Light District, but also because it is not respectful to sex workers," Deputy Mayor Udo Kock said in a statement. "It is outdated to treat sex workers as a tourist attraction."

A city survey of sex workers found that more than 80 percent said the tours had a negative effect on their business. They also said tourists were rude and took unwanted photographs.

As the city grows as a tourist destination -- an overwhelming 19 million tourists, including cruisers, crowded its narrow streets last year -- government leaders are continually looking for ways to curb that popularity.

One of the first steps was instituting a tourist tax that went into effect at the start of this year: eight euros per person, per 24-hour period. The move prompted some cruise lines to eliminate Amsterdam as a port of call, including MSC Cruises and Cruise & Maritime Voyages.

The city is also putting limits on tours given in other parts of the city, mandating that all guides have special permits and accreditations and reducing the maximum number of guests per tour from 20 to 15.

Guided tour participants will also need to pay an additional per-person fee. These changes, which are still being finalized, also go into effect January 1, 2020.

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