Overwhelmed Amsterdam sends tourists to the Hague

They aren’t (yet) calling it Amsterdam-on-Sea. But the Dutch capital – struggling to control mass tourism – is helping to market its rival city, The Hague.

While Amsterdam has a reputation as a hedonistic location for stag nights and lost weekends, The Hague has an altogether more upmarket image as home to international courts, the Dutch government and royal family.

But as part of a three-year agreement, The Hague is taking over Amsterdam’s main marketing site at Centraal Station for three weeks, trying to divert tourists with 50 free train tickets – and for the first taker, Annamarie Trombetta, an artist from New York, a guided tour in a golden, horse-drawn coach.

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The promotion is the most extreme attempt to divert Amsterdam’s 17.2 million overnight tourists, after the capital has been hit by a severe housing shortage, forced to crack down on rowdy, leering stag parties and to re-evaluate its red light district.

It has already been marketing nearby areas under its banner. “Amsterdam Castle” is otherwise known as Muiderslot, 15km away; “Amsterdam Beach” is Zandvoort-aan-Zee, on the North Sea coast; and when the city tweeted to encourage people to roam the fields of “Amsterdam area’s flower strip”, between Haarlem and Leiden, they found selfie-takers destroying the harvest.

Tulip growers near Amsterdam were forced to plead with tourists not to trample over the flowers when taking photosCredit:
Miles Ertman/All Canada Photos

Richard de Mos, head of economic affairs for The Hague’s council, said it was delighted to host cultural visitors and families: “Amsterdam has 13 times more overnight visitors than we do. But we offer something different: a seaside town, a royal town and a place of knowledge and peace. If The Hague can help make Amsterdam less busy, it is happy to do it.”

Other towns are less happy to help. Nearby Haarlem has announced a new policy to prevent the negative effects of tourism by focusing on “quality visitors”.

But Geerte Udo, chief executive of amsterdam&partners, the city’s marketing agency, said there is a need to spread the tourist load. “Tourism creates jobs and empowers our cultural infrastructure, but in some parts of the old city centre at certain moments, it causes nuisance,” she said. “If you look at the data, there are people who have been here many times and visitors here for 10 days who are interested in new areas.”

Trombetta, who enjoyed a tour of The Hague from the Royal Palace to medieval streets and buildings, was blown away. “It’s amazing to be in such an international city, which is ancient for me as an American,” she said. “I want to stay!”

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