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It is now time for a Minister of Tourism

Zaanse schans
In Amsterdam's inner city, you couldn't ignore the tourist anymore. Suitcases, selfie sticks and audio tours on the street. Stores selling churros, frozen yogurt and waffles. Clutter, noise and crowds. Until the coronavirus broke out last March. The silence during the first lockdown was at once unique and dreary. We suddenly saw that not only the burdens, but also the joys of tourism were gone. Hotels and restaurants were empty, staff sat at home.

Has Amsterdam become too dependent on tourism in recent years? How can the Netherlands as a whole benefit more from foreign visitors? I discussed this in our podcast series the PodStad with Amsterdam politician Reinier van Dantzig and Anouk van Eekelen, director of destination development at the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions (NBTC).

Next step
After the credit crisis, Amsterdam's economy was in dire need of business, and that business was on the rise thanks in part to the rapidly growing number of tourists. We forgot to think about what would happen if things got out of hand. That called for adjustment. The municipality had already taken considerable steps in recent years. The beer bike and bicycle cab disappeared from the streetscape. Vacation rentals via platforms such as Airbnb were curtailed. After a complicated legal battle, a zoning plan for more retail diversity was drawn up. Now it's time for the next step: ensure that more people live in the inner city and rigorously tackle De Wallen by moving it to an erotic center at another location in the city.

Pleasures and burdens
It's often about the burdens of tourism, but there are also definite pleasures. Think of all the cultural facilities such as museums, theaters and restaurants that cannot rely on residents alone. And all the jobs that go with it. This is less visible and audible than crowds and nuisances. According to Reinier, in 2019, about 200 million euros of tourist tax was raised, which benefits city residents because it is spent on local services and facilities, among other things.

Valuable tourist
Anouk emphasizes that through corona we see the value of tourism, only question is: what is a valuable visitor? Someone who spends a lot on catering, culture and shopping? A visitor who does not cause a nuisance, even if he or she sleeps in a hostel? For each area or city, a valuable tourist is somewhat different. It is important to define that for each city and region. 

National vision
Together with experts, administrators and residents, the NBTC has drawn up a national vision for tourism: Perspective Destination Netherlands 2030. This states that tourism is not a goal, but a means that can contribute to a social task such as jobs in shrinking areas or facilities in the city. It's about better balancing the advantages and disadvantages.

This also means looking beyond the borders of the city. The Netherlands has much more beauty than just Amsterdam or Giethoorn. One of the plan's spearheads is to put more cities and regions on the map as attractive destinations. The real estate sector also has an important role to play in this. Building new hotels before more tourists come to the region is a risk. Only, without sufficient hotel supply, there is no effective distribution. Chicken or egg. 

Ministry of Tourism
Spreading tourists around the country in the right way requires central direction and government support.  The tourism sector accounted for 4.4% of the economy in pre-Coron 2019 and employed as many as 813,000 people. Such a sizeable sector deserves its own minister. A Ministry of Tourism whose task is to seek coordination between the state, government and municipalities, between public and private and between city and countryside. In this way, we can use tourism intelligently for economically strong and liveable cities and regions.
 

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Dirk Bakker

Chief Executive Officer | Netherlands

Amsterdam

My area  of expertise lies in fields such as multi country assigments, strategic marketing, International Business Development, International Private Public Initiatives, hospitality consultancy and corporate finance assignments. My clarity in vision and strategy, leads  to tangible results. My focus has been predominantly been on cross border assigments,   where I  leveraged my extensive entrepreneurial expertise in Europe, the Middle East, India, Brazil and Russia.  I have  over 30 years experience in hotel operational consulting, initially with a focus on database management & customer loyalty programs as wel as hotel reservation systems in the global market. I have also  spent  several years in hotel development and real estate financing related areas, where I combined my expertise as hotel operations specialist in my role since late 2009 as Director Hotels for Colliers in the Netherlands as well as Head Of EMEA Hotels for Colliers. Since September 1, 2017 I am  Chief Executive officer for Colliers in the Netherlands leading a team of some 300 plus professionals and 4 offices. I am a leader with  a clear vision and a large drive to achieve goals. 

 

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