Amsterdam moving red-light district away from city center in effort to ‘reset’ tourism

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A proposal to relocate Amsterdam’s red-light district to an “erotic center” elsewhere in the city has been given the green light. Amsterdam’s city council voted last week in favor of moving the district — which has become a popular tourist attraction — after Mayor Femke Halsema argued that the women […]

A proposal to relocate Amsterdam’s red-light district to an “erotic center” elsewhere in the city has been given the green light.

Amsterdam’s city council voted last week in favor of moving the district — which has become a popular tourist attraction — after Mayor Femke Halsema argued that the women working in the brothels often faced ridicule and abuse from visitors, The Guardian reports.

Halsema has long wanted to protect De Wallen — the largest and most centrally located red-light district in Amsterdam — from the gawking eyes of tourists. In 2019, she proposed several possible changes, including closing down window-fronted brothels, reducing the number of licenses given to brothel operators, having customers pay just to enter the district’s alleyways, or moving the entire district elsewhere.

Amsterdam’s latest proposal comes after previous initiatives to curb so-called “party” tourism and guided tours through the city’s Red Light district.
(Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

“Relocating prostitution is an option. We haven’t worked out how to go about that yet, but we must dare to consider an end to prostitution in the Red Light District,” she told Dutch news outlet Het Parool in 2019.

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Representatives from across the city’s political parties ultimately agreed last week, voting in favor or setting up an “erotic center” outside of the centrally-located De Wallen area. A new location has not yet been determined, but it will likely be far from any of Amsterdam’s other tourist attractions, The Guardian reports.

“This is about a reset of Amsterdam as a visitor city. Tourists are welcome to enjoy the beauty and freedom of the city, but not at any cost,” Dennis Boutkan of the Dutch Labour party said of last week’s vote, according to the outlet.

Visitors crowd the red-light district in Amsterdaym after Dutch brothels were allowed to reopen in July following coronavirus shutdowns.

Visitors crowd the red-light district in Amsterdaym after Dutch brothels were allowed to reopen in July following coronavirus shutdowns.
(Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images)

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Not everyone is as excited about the news, however. Red Light United, a coalition of over 100 sex workers currently employed in the De Wallen brothels, feels that this decision proves “the mayor does not listen to us.” Representatives argue that the move will “mainly be a costly fiasco for the city,” while doing little to ensure the livelihood of the prostitutes who will need to relocate to a “largely empty erotic center.”

"This is about a reset of Amsterdam as a visitor city. Tourists are welcome to enjoy the beauty and freedom of the city, but not at any cost," Dennis Boutkan of the Dutch Labour party said of last week’s vote.

“This is about a reset of Amsterdam as a visitor city. Tourists are welcome to enjoy the beauty and freedom of the city, but not at any cost,” Dennis Boutkan of the Dutch Labour party said of last week’s vote.
(Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

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News of the city council’s decision comes only weeks after Mayor Halsema submitted a proposal to ban non-residents from purchasing cannabis products at the city’s marijuana-tolerant coffeeshops, in an initiative aimed at deterring foreign visitors from “soft drug tourism.”

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