Amsterdam Bans Tours of Its Red-Light District

The city’s government doesn’t want sex workers to be treated as a tourist attraction.

Amsterdam Bans Tours of Its Red-Light District

The ban goes into effect on January 1, 2020.

Photo by Olena Z / Shutterstock

Amsterdam is known for many things, from its tulip market and world-class art museums to its particularly tolerant attitude to drugs and prostitution. But starting in 2020, the city will no longer allow group tours of its red-light district over concerns of overtourism in the area and treatment of its sex workers as a tourist attraction.

“We do not consider it appropriate for tourists to leer at sex workers,” Udo Kock, the deputy mayor who proposed the bill, told CNN Travel.

The full ban goes into effect January 1, 2020, to give tour operators enough time to wind down their operations. But starting on April 1 this year, group tours will be forbidden in the red-light district after 7 p.m., according to a statement from the government. Currently, tours are allowed until 11 p.m.

In 2018, the city’s government implemented an exemption system, in which guides had to register and comply with certain rules, to curb tourism in the neighborhood. In the past year, 1,600 exemptions have been granted. While the city says the new system decreased the nuisance of the groups, a government survey still found that sex workers were experiencing abusive behavior and unwanted photography from the groups.

Any tour operator or guide who breaks these new rules will be fined €190 (US$213). However, tourists will not be restricted from entering the red-light district on their own and some are concerned that simply banning organized tours will not end the problem.

“There are certain parties that cause trouble in the red light district, but most of the trouble is caused by groups without a guide, like bachelor parties from the UK and Germany,” Elard Tissot van Patot, founder of Amsterdam Red Light District Tours, told the Telegraph.

In 2017, 20 million tourists visited the city of 850,000 residents and that number is expected to grow to 23 million in the coming years.

The ban is one part of Amsterdam’s push to curb the effects of overtourism in the historic center of the city. In addition to removing the “I Amsterdam” sign in front of the Rijkmuseum (dubbed a “symbol of mindless mass tourism”), the city has also banned beer bikes and the rental of newly built homes.

>> Next: Plan Your Trip With AFAR’s Guide to Amsterdam

Lyndsey Matthews is the former senior commerce editor at Afar, covering travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.
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