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The Changing Face of Drug Tourism in Amsterdam

The Changing Face of Drug Tourism in Amsterdam
Author: Danielle A. Wright
2 Commentries
The Changing Face of Drug Tourism in Amsterdam
Author: Danielle Wright University: University of Wolverhampton


This paper discusses how drug tourism has shaped Amsterdam as a destination and shows the positive and negative affects drug tourism has had on the economy and society and how this is governed by politics. The paper will show the affect drug tourism has on the tourists who visit Amsterdam, the local people and also the destination.

Drug tourism, economy, society, politics, tourist drug ban

Discussion Paper:

The Changing Face of Drug Tourism in Amsterdam

The following discussion will particularly focus on Amsterdam and show how drug tourism has shaped the destination by looking at the following factors; politics, the economy and the society. The discussion fits into conference strand 1 as it will take into account the risk of drug tourism and will demonstrate the political, economical and social affects it has on the tourists as well as local people and the destination.
Tourism is one of the leading industries which is a main contributor to the world's economy. Tourism helps improve the economy in countries, especially developing countries as they generate income from tourist expenditure (Harrison, 2001).. Therefore this creates a better lifestyle for the local people. Amsterdam is a good example of a destination with a wealthy economy which has been helped by tourism. In 2010 Amsterdam had a record of 10 million bed nights during that year and had 5.3 million tourist arrivals (Fedorova, 2011). Therefore this shows that Amsterdam as a destination is popular as it attracts so many visitors per year.

There are many attractions in Amsterdam such as the zoo, open air markets, museums and the red light district. One of the main attractions in Amsterdam is the cafes as it is legal in Amsterdam and Holland to sell the drug cannabis for consumption and to smoke. It is estimated the one in four tourists who visit Amsterdam take part in drug tourism (Travel, 2011). Therefore drug tourism is a major contributor to Amsterdam's economy as it attracts so many tourists each year.

Amsterdam's wealthy economy has benefitted the local people by providing them with a better lifestyle. The infrastructure in Amsterdam has been improved by a integrated bus, tram and rail system which runs frequently throughout the city and to the cities airport providing an accessible service for local people as well as tourists, enabling them access to major facilities such as the airport, hotels and all attractions in Amsterdam (Coogan, 2000).

Drug tourism creates a negative image for Amsterdam as a destination as the behaviour of tourists whilst under the influence is often unacceptable, causing brawls in the streets and local people often witness tourists throwing up as they can't handle the strength of the cannabis that they have consumed or smoked. This causes a social confliction for local people as much of the local people benefit from the tourists expenditure as it provides over 50,100 per year (Fedorova, 2011) but they socially do not like the behaviour of tourists, which is often related to drug tourism (Crawford, 2011). This also puts off other tourists from visiting Amsterdam and therefore other attractions have to compete against this niche market.

Drug tourism does not only affect the economy of tourism and the local society. It also affects the tourist as they are at risk of harming themselves or other around them due to the harmful affects drugs have on them. Two thirds of ambulances called for drug related problems in Amsterdam are for tourists rather than local people (Guide, 2005). This puts a strain of the health services in Amsterdam and shows the negative affects drug tourism has on the risks tourists take on holiday. Tourists tend to take more risks whilst away from home than they would in their own country. Therefore they may be tempted to take illegal drugs which are sold on the black market which could have a more negative affect as they are not policed and regulated.

The Holland government have taken into account the negative affects drug tourism has on Amsterdam and are ready to rejuvenate it to other tourist markets rather than the low budget drug tourism market it has been attracting since the hippy-movement in the 1970s. Therefore Holland have proposed to ban tourists from having cannabis when they visit Amsterdam from January 2013. Hence tourists will no longer be able to enter cafes in Amsterdam which sell cannabis. Cafes will be limited to having 2000 members per cafe and will only be open to the Dutch who obtain a 'dope-card' (Crawford, 2011). This is to create a better image for Amsterdam and attract a better class of tourists.

It has created controversy between MPs in Holland as some have called it tourism suicide as they believe drug tourism is a major contributor to the economy. Therefore this may affect Amsterdam's economy as they may loose money. However socially Amsterdam will benefit from a better image and cleaner streets benefitting local people and the remaining three quarters of the tourists that go there. Prostitution will also remain legal for those tourists wishing to seek new experiences. Therefore Amsterdam will be a destination which offeres a diverse range of activities, hoping to attract a range of tourists without creating a negative image from tourist bahaviour such as the drug tourism. The question will remain will Amsterdam survive as a destination due to the changing face of drug tourism? Time will tell.


Coogan, M. A. (2000). Improving public transportation access to large airports. USA: Leigh Fisher Associates.

Crawford, D. (2011, October 17). Ban on skunk \'will cause black market in Amsterdam\'. Retrieved May 4, 2011, from BBC Newsbeat: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/15338078

Fedorova, T. (2011, November). City of Amsterdam: Research and Statistics: Economic Development Department. Retrieved May 4, 2012, from http://www.os.amsterdam.nl/pdf/2011_factsheets_7.pdf
Can Amsterdam survive change?
Author: Robyn Dack
Many interesting points have been projected within this discussion and certain key issues include that Amsterdam is at the moment a very popular place to visit with millions of tourists travelling their every year and many tourists go for certain reasons weather it be to visit art galleries, visit the red light district or take drugs. It\'s interesting to know that according to Travel 2011, 1 in 4 tourists take part in drug tourism, therefore this is showing a massive amount of people participating is drug tourism. However further discussed later on in the paper their is comments on Amsterdam enforcing a ban on tourists being legal to use cannabis from January 2013. Similarly to many others it would seem obvious with the vast amount tourists participating in drug tourism, that this would create a negative impact on visitor numbers.

This paper looks into both arguments of weather or not drugs will or will not have a negative impact on the number of tourists to this country. Authors used such as Fedorova 2011, create an interesting argument by expressing the impacts of drug tourism and therefore creates one side of the argument that has been examined in this paper, he says that drugs have a negative impact on the locals and is a risk on other tourists.

Consequently the ban has been created for 2013 to solve the issues that Fedorova has and therefore wants to create a better image for this country. One issue that could be closely looked at is the ban on drugs however prostitution is still legal for tourists. This will create arguments within tourists travelling to Amsterdam. I feel a key point to be explored would be to understand people's feeling of this situation and weather or not tourists agree with drugs being made illegal and prostitution which is illegal in the UK to remain legal in Amsterdam.

One major strength of the paper is that it creates a balance of different arguments from looking at the tourists to the local people, drugs being illegal to what it will do to tourism. However a wider debate could include as said before, how drugs will be made illegal whereas prostitution remains legal and the impact this has on tourists. The references used backs up the knowledge of Amsterdam and its different policies on drugs and what is best for the tourists. This create different perspective and academic opinions on what people think about this situation and creates different arguments which overall builds up a very interesting and thought out discussion. This discussion paper seems to flow quite well with being able to research future events that will dramatically change this country on a whole.
Which effect will it have?
Author: Julia Krietzsch
There are many really interesting facts within this discussion paper and many factors, why Amsterdam is such a popular place to visit and why it attracts millions of people every year. It is really interesting that the drug tourism plays a major role in the city next to the different sights and that it has a good influence on the economy.

I liked that this paper looked at both sides of the drug consuming in Amsterdam, because we all know that especially many Germans and Belgians are travelling to the city just to buy drugs and they are not interested in the city itself. It will take ten minutes to get out of the train into a coffee shop, so the city will not benefit from it, because the people just have one goal: buy drugs. I think with the prohibition that tourists cannot buy drugs anymore the government has to consider two different sides, like it was also mentioned in this paper. On the one hand side it is a good opportunity to change the image of the city, because no city wants to be known for legal drug tourism, which also may scare other tourists and discourage them to go there for a longer visit. Furthermore some people argue that the drug tourism in Netherland is just the disguised form of illegal drug trafficking Europe-wide and that the government has to do something against it. That is understandable, if people would just look on the one side, but there are also positive effects of the drug tourism, like it was explained in this paper too. It provides a great contribution to the economy and the country earns a lot of money with it, whereby it is possible to improve the lifestyle of the people and to brighten up the cities for the local people and the tourists.

It was the greatest strength of this paper that the author looked at both sides and that the comparison of both sides was balanced, but like it was also mentioned nobody knows which exact impact it will have to forbid the tourists to buy drugs, because there are positive but also negative effects of it. Maybe they should have a testing phase to see what will happen and then amend the law or not.