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Amsterdam to increase tourist tax to reclaim city for residents

Amsterdam is planning to increase taxes on tourists by as much as €10 a night, as the authorities attempt to limit stag weekends and visitors to the red-light district and reclaim the city for residents.

About 17 million people visited the city of 850,000 residents in 2016, up from 12 million five years earlier, and the trend is expected to accelerate.

More than a quarter of visitors stayed in budget hotels, the local council says, bringing limited cash into the municipal coffers but helping to encourage a trend towards the city centre being dominated by tourist accommodation.

Last week, protesters carrying banners and megaphones took to the city’s streets chanting, “Amsterdam, not for sale!” and “Whose city? Our city!”, in the latest show of frustration among residents at the changing face of their town.

Tourists pay 5% of the cost of their room in the city centre, with that rate due to increase to 6% in 2018. The city councillor responsible for finance, Udo Kock, has said he is looking at a new formula to squeeze out low-spending tourists and in favour of the heavier spenders.

“We need more people who actually spend money in the city,” Kock told the Dutch newspaper Het Parool. “We would prefer people who stay a couple of nights, visit museums, have lavish meals at restaurants, to people who pop over for a weekend eating falafel while sauntering around the red-light district.”

The council is considering introducing a split-fee system – with visitors paying a fixed amount per night of as much as €10 plus a percentage of the hotel bill. Such a tax would add significantly to the costof a budget trip to the city.

Kock said: “The number of visitors will grow from 17 million to 23 million in the coming years and that means more cleaning and a greater police presence in the streets. And I want Amsterdammers to profit from the success of the city.”

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Residents have become increasingly vociferous in recent years, complaining they are being forced out by spiralling house prices and an influx of tourists. Local politicians have claimed the city is at risk of becoming “the Venice of the north”.

This year, the chief executive of Amsterdam Marketing, Frans Van der Avert, claimed European “cities are dying from tourism” and that people would no longer live in the historic centres. The mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan, received a letter from local companies and residents urging him to stop the city’s “Disneyfication”.

Rick Aalders, 28, the manager at Hotel Aalders on the edge of the city centre, said he did not believe the tax plan would change the city for the better.

“The taxes are already high for tourists”, he said. “Are people really going to stop coming because of a rise in taxes? I don’t think so. We have growth in numbers of 7% to 8% every month. I think the tax rise is about making money… But it is true that everyone is moving out. On our street, a house will cost €700,000 and most people can’t get a mortgage for that, so everyone is moving to other cities.”

Last year, the city of Amsterdam attempted to reassure its critics that it was sensitive to the changing face of the city by striking a deal with the property-sharing website Airbnb. The company agreed that apartments rented out for 60 days would be removed from the site for the rest of the year. The website also agreed to install a “neighbour tool” through which other residents can complain about noisy or aggressive tenants.


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