Red light district to ban guided-tours

Amsterdam will cease all tours in the city’s most famous area

The oldest neighborhood of Amsterdam, the red-light district, is in the eye of important changes in tourism regulation in one of the most crowded cities of Europe. By January 1st, 2020 the city will ban all guided-tours in the area, known for its regulated prostitution, due to visitors’ inappropriate behavior.

red light district in amsterdam

“It is no longer acceptable in this age to see sex workers as a tourist attraction,” city councilor Udo Kock said in a formal statement issued last week. The measure complements a previous one, that forbids to take pictures of sex workers. The problem is that many tourists simply don´t follow that rule.

The red-light district sees around 1,000 guided-tours (both free and paid) per day, which stresses neighbors and the workers of the area, that claim the area has become unliveable. The city’s effort is to reduce the number of tourists, especially the ones whose behavior is disrespectful. Amsterdam hosts around 19 million tourists per year while having around 1 million residents.

About the red-light district

For some, the red-light district is the most fascinating area of the city. It’s said to have started around the 13th century, in the very city center, and today has brothels, sex shops, museums, pubs, coffee shops, and a friendly atmosphere. The liberal vibe of the place shows the pragmatic way of Dutch to deal with sensitive issues. In this case, the prostitution.

In the red-light, officially named De Wallen, sex workers are all legal, pay taxes and have their rights as any other worker. They stand on brothels windows, with red neon lights, and shock not a few. The offer and demand of sex work is not easy for everyone to see, and drunken tourists are a constant issue.

In 1988, prostitution was recognized as a legal profession and in October 2000 it was subjected to the municipal regulations about organization and business. Street prostitution however is forbidden. Any sex business must operate with a license, certifying that it has fulfilled the legal requirements.

Today there are around 280 windows brothels operating in De Wallen, with the legal working age of a prostitute set at 21 years old. The common price of sex session is set in 50€ for 50 minutes of professional pleasure.

Other measures to civilize tourism in Amsterdam

amsterdam city center canals

In addition to banning the tours in the red light, guided tours of other parts of Amsterdam’s historic city center will be limited to 15 people (today the top is 20),  and guides must pass a “quality check” to obtain a certification from the city council.

The red-light district tours banning is the latest in a series of measure to control tourism. Previous actions include tougher regulations on Airbnb, implementing a 7% tourist tax, and restricting development of new hotels and tourist-centric shops.

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