BY NEW YORK TIMES
Amsterdam is to ban guided tours of its notorious red-light district, the latest move by the city to tackle overcrowding and improve working conditions for prostitutes in the area.
Thousands of tourists visit the red-light district every week, Amsterdam officials said. But the crowds have not been beneficial for prostitutes, who tend to be gawked at by visitors while potential paying clients are put off.CreditCreditJasper Juinen for The New York Times
“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,” Udo Kock, Amsterdam’s deputy mayor, said in a statement on Wednesday.
“It is outdated to treat sex workers as a tourist attraction,” he added.
The ban will come into effect on Jan. 1, as will bans on free tours and on soliciting visitors to take part in tours, the statement said.
Although Amsterdam, the Dutch capital, has distinctive cultural gems — galleries, museums, restaurants and its iconic canals, to mention just a few — for decades, tourists have also been attracted to the city for the marijuana and prostitution, both of which are largely legal there.
But its popularity as a relatively low-cost, versatile destination has seen the number of visitors rise to the asphyxiating level of about 19 million a year.
The overcrowded streets and rowdy behavior of some tourists have increasingly posed problems for Dutch officials. More than 1,000 guided tours pass through the Oudekerksplein — the main square in the red-light district — every week, city officials said. But the crowds have not been beneficial for prostitutes, who tend to be gawked at by visitors while potential paying clients are put off.
The city said that residents and local businesses in the red-light district “experience disturbances caused by groups of tourists” and that 80 percent of the prostitutes consulted said that the tours “had a negative effect on their business.”
“In addition, sex workers still experience severe problems with participants of guided tours, such as rude behavior and unwanted photographs,” the authorities said.
Niek Prast, the manager of Strawberry Tours, a small company that organizes guided visits to Amsterdam, said that if the government went ahead with the ban, it would be “a bit of a disaster” for his business.