Introduction coming years. For cities, developing cultural


For many years the city of Amsterdam
has been an allurement for a wide range of cultural visitors (both foreign and
domestic) who are aiming for visiting its cultural attributes visible within multiple
landmarks, highly recognized museums, distinctive buildings and architecture,
but also to enjoy the cities’ culture, vibrant districts as well as nightlife.
Tourism, in particular cultural tourism, is the economic engine of Amsterdam.
In comparison with 2010, expenditures of visitors rose from 12 billion to 21
billion euros in 2016 (van Zoelen, 2017) and the number of visitors is annually
growing with approximately 5%. In addition, tourism in Amsterdam is expected to
continue growing within the coming years.

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For cities, developing
cultural tourism is seen as a means for enhancing local income, employment
creation, development or improvement of infrastructure, increase in
expenditures, the atmosphere within the inner-city as well as the development
of new facilities accessible to both visitors as well as local inhabitants,
amongst others. However, increasing tourism numbers in urban destinations might
instigate several negative effects such as traffic jams, increasing costs of
living, speculation among properties, commercialisation of urban areas, loss of
place identity among locals as well as contamination (Tokarchuk et al., 2017). Moreover,
effects of tourism on inhabitants have been underexposed for years and might
have a substantial impact on quality of life of locals, both positively or
negatively. Consequently, this essay will be dealing with the following
question: In what way is the constantly growing number of visitors to Amsterdam
being experienced by inhabitants living in the city centre?

In the first place, the
essay starts with a theory section that shortly outlines cultural tourism in
urban contexts. Subsequently, the focus will be on the importance of cultural tourism
for Amsterdam and the effects of tourism on quality of life of inhabitants in
European cities. Thereafter, the methodology will be shortly explained,
followed by the empirical results based on fifteen interviews with two
inhabitants of Amsterdam in 2015 in the analysis section. The essay will be
concluded by stating the most important outcomes of the research.

2.        Theoretic framework

2.1. Cultural tourism in urban contexts

Before focusing on cultural tourism
in urban contexts, culture needs to be briefly defined. According to Mousavi et
al. (2016) culture can be seen in a twofold way: as a process, which entails
the way of life as well as of codes of conduct embedded in different societal
communities that create meaning. Culture viewed from a product perspective might
be considered as individual or group activities to which specific meanings are
enclosed. In relation to tourism, these definitions are slightly similar and
interwoven. However, tourism together with contributing other social processes
comprises both perspectives: culture as a process might be transformed into
cultural products.

Du Cros & McKercher
(2015) present a definition of cultural tourism that focuses on a destinations’
cultural assets such as practices, rituals, traditions, heritage, history, the way
of life, thoughts and lifestyle that might be created into cultural products and
that can be consumed by tourists who are aiming for obtaining educative, creative
and entertaining experiences. Cultural products, in this case, consist of
immovable objects as well as tangible, intangible and creative activities
(Richards, 2011) such as museums, monuments, archaeological sites, cathedrals
theatres, galleries, festivals, traditions, gastronomy, amongst others (Smith,
2016). Moreover, cultural tourism can be considered as a meeting point between
different cultures that could ensure alterations among both of them, the
host-guest relation.

McKercher & Du Cros
(2002) created a typology of cultural tourists, where motivations for visiting
cultural attributes in destinations are ranging from high to low and where
cultural experiences vary from deep to shallow. Types of cultural tourists are
the purposeful cultural tourist, sightseeing cultural tourist, serendipitous
cultural tourist, casual tourist and the incidental cultural tourist. On the
other hand, Caldeira & Kastenholz (2017) distinguish between motivations,
first-time visitors and repeat visits, expressing that the latter possesses
mainly motivations such as relaxation and familiarity, while first-time
visitors have novelty and new cultural experiences as primary motivations. In
addition, first-time visitors might focus on a destinations’ most important
attractions, while repeat visitors tend to focus more on less visited
attractions. Patterns of movement, therefor, differ among both groups.

Smith (2016) furthermore
argues that cultural tourism is gradually growing and constantly subject to
change and development. As a result, cultural tourism in its contemporary form
might be increasingly difficult to define (Noonan & Rizzo, 2017) as a wide
range of activities has components of culture involved. Cultural tourists are
constantly seeking for new, authentic and genuine experiences in both urban and
rural areas. Nevertheless, primary motivations of cultural tourists not only
focus on gathering cultural experiences. Relaxation, recreation, and fun are
also important motives for holidaymakers (Smith, 2016).

2.2. Amsterdam as a
(cultural) tourism destination

As a result of economic development,
the increasing promotion and importance of urban tourism, the growing
possibilities for cheap (seasonal) traveling (Gerritsma & Vork, 2017) as
well as the presence of new accommodation possibilities such as Airbnb
(Kottasová, 2017), tourism is growing in European cities such as Amsterdam. In
2000, the city received approximately eight million overnight stays (Gemeente
Amsterdam, Bureau Onderzoek, Informatie & Statistiek, 2002). Presently,
this number is already achieved after half a year.

Amsterdam is yearly
announced as one of the most visited cultural tourism destinations in Europe. Although
the city is being visited by a wide variety of tourists with different
motivations and expectations, the majority of them are interested in visiting
the cities’ museums and art exhibitions (NBTC, 2016; SP, 2017). Amsterdam was in
place 28 in the top-100 worldwide city destinations in 2017, ranked with
6,570.400 tourist arrivals (Geerts et al., 2017). Larger European cities such
as London, Paris, Rome, Istanbul, Prague, Barcelona and Milan were among the
top-25 most visited destinations worldwide. As can be seen in table 1, among
the European cities, Amsterdam is in place eight when it comes to cultural destinations,
leaving popular cities such as Vienna and Berlin behind. Nevertheless,
Amsterdam is a relatively small city in terms of size. The impacts of cultural
tourism might, therefor, have a substantial impact on locals.



arrivals per year


Size of city
in km2




8,8 million

1.572 km2




2,2 million

105,4 km2




2,9 million

1.285 km2




14,8 million

1.539 km2




1,3 million

496 km2




1,6 million

101,9 km2




1,3 million

181,8 km2









1,8 million

414,6 km2




3,5 million

891,8 km2

Table 1. Most visited European cities,
their population, and size (Source: adapted from Geerts, et al., 2017)

2.3. Effects of tourism on
quality of life of local inhabitants

Economic and social development may
be achieved as a result of a prosperous local tourism sector that is striving
for a precise and constructive resource management (Catudan, 2016). However, too
good management and overexploitation of (cultural) resources may eventually
result in the opposite, in a destination losing its equilibrium between on the
one hand liveability for locals and, on the other hand, growing tourism numbers
(Pinkster & Boterman, 2017). What has started for numerous cities as a
means for revitalizing city centres, promoting their cultural treasures to outsiders,
stimulating local economies, improvement of local service levels, development
of infrastructure and public transportation networks (Afthanorhan et al., 2017),
nowadays, several European cities that are famous for their cultural features are
increasingly facing the disadvantages of tourism as it is negatively impacting
its inhabitants. As a result, many parties currently focus on studying the
negative socio-cultural impacts of tourism on local societies in urban contexts,
rather than the positive effects (Gerritsma & Vork, 2017).

Zamani-Farahani &
Musa (2012) mention negative impacts such as migration of communities to other
neighborhoods that differ from previous living conditions, increasing numbers
of criminality and prostitution that might come along with tourism development
in urban environments. From a government perspective, in cities such as
Barcelona, Berlin, and Amsterdam the issue of an escalating tourism sector is
so urgent that it is placed as one of the most important items on political
agendas. Especially in the smaller size cities mentioned in table 1 such as
Barcelona, Milan and Amsterdam, but also in larger cities such as Rome,
protests by inhabitants against tourism are expanding. Noise nuisance, contamination,
increasing prices for living as well as commercialisation of neighborhoods
(Kottasová, 2017) are a few of the mentioned statements of inhabitants
expressing their resistance towards excessive tourism numbers and their effects.
Some measures have been taken in cities in order to balance tourism numbers and
quality of life of locals. Those are measures such as preventing public
drinking, restrictions to food trucks and selfie sticks (Coldwell, 2017)
installing tourist police, controlling the number of cruise ships, limiting the
number of hotel rooms, decreasing the number of permits for takeaway shops,
instruction campaigns and tourist tax (Kottasová, 2017) that should give rise
to tourists being encouraged to show appropriate behaviour and assure improved
living conditions for locals.

Local authorities and
organisations in Amsterdam also increasingly see the necessity to balance tourism
and quality of life of inhabitants as locals are starting to complain or stand
up against the continuous tourism development in Amsterdam (Pijbes, 2014; Couzy,
2017) as it is affecting their daily lives. It is mentioned that inhabitants
avoid certain locations intentionally, particularly within the old part of the
city centre (Boon, 2016), or even move to locations outside the city centre or
outside Amsterdam. The other effects mentioned earlier in this section also
apply to Amsterdam. However, Amsterdam is taking several measures in order to
find a balance between tourism and quality of life of locals. One of them is to
spread tourism in- and outside Amsterdam with mentioning other Dutch
destinations in the vicinity of the city for example, Amsterdam Beach
(Zandvoort), Flowers of Amsterdam (Keukenhof, Lisse) and Castles and Gardens of
Amsterdam (Muiderslot, Muiden) (AT5, 2016).

3.        Methodology

On the basis of the visitor pressure
concept developed by Postma (2013), presented in figure 1, semi-structured
interviews with 26 respondents have been carried out in 2015 as part of an
unpublished pilot research project performed by the author in favour of the
European Tourism Futures Institute (ETFI). The data of the interviews is still
relevant to date as the research project is still continuing (in other European
cities as well), and provides insight in how inhabitants perceive tourism
(development) in Amsterdam.

The visitor pressure concept is based on critical incidents that have a significant
impact on inhabitants and can be experienced in a positive or negative way
(Anton, 1996). To assess respondents’ responses to critical incidents,
measurement tools have been developed defining the level of emotional and
behavioural responses. These are presented and explained in figure 1.

 Figure 1. Emotional and behavioural responses
to critical encounters in tourism (Source: Postma, 2013)

Fifteen of the 26
interviews that have been performed throughout the pilot project in 2015 have
again been analyzed and used for this essay. In order to
receive a diversity in information, the author decided on making use of
qualitative research by applying the semi-structured interview technique. This
technique allowed the interviewee to share a substantial amount of
information since it is a rather open method to obtain topic-related
information. Moreover, it leaves room for the respondent to add his or her own
comments (Veal, 2014). Besides that, interviews were in the case of this
research topic more suitable than a quantitative approach since they provided a
more detailed and in-depth insight in experiences, emotions, behaviours as well
as feelings of respondents (Rahman, 2017) in relation to tourism in Amsterdam, which
is the main goal of this research. At the time respondents shared
their experiences, the author generally asked follow-up questions such as ‘where
did it occur?’ or ‘how did you feel afterwards?’ in order to
stimulate respondents to elaborate their experiences to a greater extent.
Interviews have been transcribed and open coding has been used to analyze the
gathered data.

4.        Analysis

At the moment the interviews were
held, most interviewed respondents resided in the city-centre for 1-60 years
and were aged between 21-69 years. Some of them were living in or nearby the
tourism core area, but within the city-centre, while others formerly lived in
this area, but moved to places outside (but in the proximity) of Amsterdam.
Moreover, some of the interviewees had an interest in tourism (e.g. income
dependence on tourism) and expressed themselves more positive than negative
about tourism in Amsterdam. In addition, respondents living in the tourism core
area were generally more sceptical or (slightly) negative towards tourism in
comparison with respondents who were living nearby or outside the area, although
they argued that tourism also brought positive developments such as the
possibility to show the beauty and liveliness of the city to outsiders, the
internationalization as well as the importance of tourism in terms of economic

“I find ourselves (inhabitants of Amsterdam) ambassadors of the city and
I will always be as friendly as possible and I try ……… to provide tourists with
information about our city”

“I constantly speak French, Italian, English, German because it is
needed. Tourists ask you to point the way, and then I add a lot of things to
it. If they ask for the Anne Frank house, I add a brief story to it (pointing
the way)”

“Obviously, it (tourism) brings in a lot of money for many businesses,
shops, restaurants, hotels, so, in this regard only positive”

“People who are living in Amsterdam should realize that tourists bring
in money and the city definitely benefits from it (tourism). We as a city
become richer”

By asking interviewees’
general perceptions of tourism to Amsterdam, it became clear that especially
specific areas situated on the edge of, as well as within the inner part of,
the city-centre is touristic and overcrowded, particularly within the summer
period. Moreover, since Amsterdam is a small city in comparison with other
European city destinations, its most important landmarks are predominantly
located on short distance from each other, which makes that tourist activity is
mainly centred among those streets/landmarks and ensures specific crowded and
popular places, as have been pointed out by means of the following quotes:

 “It (tourism) more or less starts
in the Haarlemmerstraat, Dijk and via the Prinsengracht just along the edge of
the Jordaan, continues up to the Negen Straatjes and around the Leidsestraat.
This part is really touristic and crowded”.

“It (the city-centre) looks like an amusement park, so at this moment
too much (tourism)”

Increasing tourism has
led to gentrification of certain parts within the city centre, resulting in
buildings losing their original function, residents moving to other parts or
outside the city and loss of social cohesion in neighborhood contexts. Whereas
gentrification seen from a spatial point of view resembles a positive upgrade
of a certain neighbourhood on several aspects (Gainza, 2017), for inhabitants
of Amsterdam the meaning has a negative connotation, as has been pointed out by
the following quotation:

“Three or four years ago it was really cosy in our neighborhood. Our
anchorage is already gone for a long time, in the meantime the residents also
left”. The social feeling within the neighborhood is gone and I fear this will
only get worse”.

“What I find annoying is that a lot of authentic shops close their doors
and are being replaced by catering facilities, coffee shops or souvenir shops.
So…., in other words, I find that the offering of shops is increasingly becoming

A growing tourism, the concentration
of tourists in certain tourist areas as well as cultural differences between
locals and tourists furthermore regularly instigated dangerous situations due
to tourists not being aware of traffic rules. This has led to increased
irritation levels among both interviewees and tourists, but also to the fact
that locals changed behaviours by avoiding certain overcrowded areas. In
addition, Interviewees argued that some areas are tourist domains. In those
areas, locals are generally absent and increasingly prefer to visit other
places that are located outside the city-centre, and that have not yet been
discovered by tourists.

“You also see it (tourism) at the Leidseplein. That is also an area
which I do not visit anymore….”

“In traffic, I experienced several dangerous situations while I was
cycling through the city-centre. I have been running over a few times by large
groups who were cycling over the bridges. They did not know how to use brakes
and were not aware of the fact that people coming from the right side of the
road normally  have right of way.

“What I see is that inhabitants and tourists are avoiding each other.
Many inhabitants of Amsterdam do not visit the city-centre anymore if they want
to go out. Besides, they go to the western part of the city, to Hallen, the eastern
part, the Indian neighborhood or to Beukenplein. In this way, new places arise
that are really lively”.

“Quite funny, because you have, let’s say, the touristic entertainment
centre and the normal entertainment centre for inhabitants of Amsterdam, for
people who are living in Amsterdam”

Another mentioned aspect
as a result of increasing tourism in Amsterdam is the advent of ‘cheap tourism’
and the corresponding effects of this type of tourism such as, tourists that
are being disrespectful towards the city and their inhabitants, showing
inappropriate behaviour reflected in the effects of too much drinking, peeing,
noise nuisance and increasing waste on the streets. These effects were affecting
the liveability of certain areas as well as locals’ feelings about what quality
of life meant for them.

tourists would like to visit Amsterdam in order to enjoy the beauty of the
city, that would be a stimulus for keeping the city lively and well-maintained.
But there is also a kind of tourism that is not interested in these aspects:
tourism that has increased as a result of the advent of budget airlines”.

“I know
people who are living in the old part of the city-centre. What they tell me is
that, from the moment that Ryanair installed their base at Schiphol, it is very
appealing to travel from the United Kingdom to Amsterdam in order to spend the
weekend. People are coming on Saturday to Amsterdam, together with a few mates,
visit the Wallen, smoke grass, drink heavily and save money by not booking a
hotel. On Sunday they are flying back home again”