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Amsterdam to ban all tours of red light district

Amsterdam is banning all tours of its red light district from 2020.

The Netherlands capital is also capping the number of people allowed on guided tours of the city’s medieval centre, which encompasses the red light district, at 15 per group.

The ban comes into effect on 1 January next year and includes pub crawls and guided walks.

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“We do not consider it appropriate for tourists to leer at sex workers,” said deputy mayor Udo Kock. 

“We are banning tours that take visitors along sex workers’ windows, not only because we want to prevent overcrowding in the red-light district, but also because it is not respectful to sex workers.”

He added that it was no longer appropriate to “see sex workers as a tourist attraction”.

More than 1,000 organised groups visit Oudekerksplein, the hub of the red light district, each week, with a peak of 28 tours an hour in the early evening.

Four out of five prostitutes have said that non-stop guided tours are hurting their business, according to DutchNews.

Guides outside the red light district will now have to have permits, according to city officials, and a ban on free tours and the practice of touting for punters will also be prohibited. 

The measures are part of a bigger move to shift Amsterdam’s tourism offering away from stag dos and hard drinking.

In 2017, the city banned beer bikes in the city centre, while last year a coalition of the city’s main political parties announced plans to address the impact of mass tourism on the city in an effort to reverse the “Disneyfication” of the Dutch capital.

Ideas included cracking down on boozy boat trips, diverting cruise ships from docking in the city centre and banning Airbnb short-term rentals in the city’s busiest areas. 

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The existing tourist tax has also risen from between 4 and 6 per cent to 7 per cent, an endeavour that is estimated to raise $105m a year by 2022.

The issue of overtourism has become increasingly problematic for Amsterdam – although the city has just 850,000 residents, tourist numbers hit 19 million in 2018.

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