Amsterdam Has a Message for Male Tourists From the U.K.: ‘Stay Away’
"In an ad campaign aimed at British men between 18 and 35, the Dutch capital threatens fines for visitors who are looking for a “messy night.”
The next time a British man between 18 and 35 types search terms looking for a cheap trip to Amsterdam for himself and his friends, he may see an unusual advertisement: “Stay away.”
In one such ad, a young man is slumped over a bench before he is taken into an ambulance by medical personnel. Another shows close-ups of a man being handcuffed and fingerprinted by the police. Overlaying text warns those who are “coming to Amsterdam for a messy night” that they could incur fines or hospital stays as well as criminal records or permanent damage to their health.
Those videos, which are prompted by search terms like “pub crawl Amsterdam,” are part of advertising by the city aimed at deterring young British men from coming to the Dutch capital for a rowdy weekend. The warnings come even though Amsterdam is partly known for access to marijuana and legal prostitution in the city’s red-light district.
Tourist destinations seem to view British tourists as at risk of overindulging in alcohol. The British government has even studied the phenomenon. In 2013, research showed that more than half of young people were likely to drink more on vacation than at home. “Some young Brits on holiday are putting themselves at risk of serious harm such as hospitalization, arrest or detention,” the British government said at the time.
The campaign is aimed at “nuisance tourists” who are planning to “go nuts,” according to Amsterdam’s announcement. It started this week and is initially focused on British men between 18 and 35. The city may expand it to other tourists, from the Netherlands and other European Union countries, later this year, according to the announcement.
“The advertisements show the risks and consequences of nuisance and excessive use of alcohol and drugs: fines, getting arrested, a permanent record, hospital admittance and health damage,” the announcement states.
“Visitors will still be welcome, but not if they misbehave and cause a nuisance,” Sofyan Mbarki, Amsterdam’s deputy mayor, said in a statement. “Amsterdam is a metropolis and that includes bustle and liveliness, but to keep our city livable, we’re now choosing limitation instead of irresponsible growth.”
In 2021, close to nine million tourists visited the city for a day trip or overnight, according to numbers on the city’s website. The number peaked in 2019, with about 22 million tourists.
The ads are part of a larger effort to crack down on noisy tourists whom locals have long complained about. Last month, Amsterdam introduced rules that banned the smoking of marijuana on the streets of the red-light district and required businesses to shut at 3 a.m., three hours earlier than the previous time. Cafes and restaurants must also close earlier, at 2 a.m.
The city is also aiming to reduce the amount of window prostitution in the red-light district and has been looking for alternatives. One such proposal is to build an “erotic center” outside the city center. The city is still deciding among three locations, but it has been met with opposition from some residents.
Rowdy tourists aren’t a new phenomenon in Amsterdam, and it’s not the first time the city has made a similar plea — even if this campaign seems more blunt.
In 2018, the city introduced on-the-spot fines and increased the presence of city workers in the streets, as well as creating an ad campaign targeting British and Dutch men. Those ads used annotated images to remind visitors that drinking and singing loudly should be contained to bars and not spill into the streets. They also threatened fines for bad behavior.
Alongside the “stay away” videos, the city said it had begun an educational effort for visitors who are already in town called “How to Amsterdam,” which seeks to inform people on appropriate behavior. (Guidance includes warning signs about excessive noise, the illegality of urinating in public and buying drugs from dealers in the street.)
“We’re not a fan of it,” Ian Johnson, a spokesman for Last Night of Freedom, a company that organizes bachelor and bachelorette parties, said of the latest ad campaign. “We think it’s a bit shortsighted.” He added that British tourists didn’t deserve their bad reputation and called the videos alarmist.
Last Night of Freedom organizes bachelor parties for about 100 groups in Amsterdam every year, Mr. Johnson said, expressing skepticism about how successful the ads would be. Amsterdam’s reputation as a party city is entrenched, Mr. Johnson said.
“Business is booming on our end,” he said. “I don’t think this is going to stop it.”