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‘Stay away’: City cracks down on tourists

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Bali isn’t the only tourist hotspot making moves to change its image and discourage unruly travellers from visiting.

If you’ve got plans to visit Amsterdam during a trip to Europe this year, you should expect some changes.

Bali’s tourism board is in the process of launching a public campaign to educate tourists to respect Balinese cultural customs, including how to dress and behave.

Last week an influential Indonesian senior minister, Luhut Pandjaitan, put it more bluntly when he said: “We do not need naughty tourists in Bali.”

But the popular island is not alone when it comes to efforts to rebrand and move away from being known as a destination for foreigners to let loose.

The Netherlands’ capital Amsterdam, known for its wild night-life and cannabis coffee shops, is due to launch its own public campaign this month dubbed “Stay Away”.

The idea is to deter “nuisance” tourists who visit the city for alcohol, sex and drugs.

The city has also proposed new rules for its infamous Red Light District, reportedly expected to come into effect in mid-May.

The rules include a ban on smoking cannabis in the street, tighter restrictions on alcohol sales, and earlier closing times for bars, clubs and sex-work establishments.

The City of Amsterdam said local residents had complained of mass tourism and alcohol and drug abuse, and the new rules were intended to make “the atmosphere at night less menacing”.

The actions are all part of a wider plan to change Amsterdam’s image and make it a more comfortable place for locals.

The city also wants to crack down on bachelor parties and pub crawls, and in the long-term, tighten policies around holiday rental accommodation like Airbnb.

The City of Amsterdam believes its reputation as a “free and open” city has got out of hand, where some visitors think anything is allowed.

In a statement late last year, Amsterdam Deputy Mayor Sofyan Mbarki said action must be taken to change the city’s tourism.

“Amsterdam is a metropolis and that includes bustle and liveliness, but to keep our city liveable we now have to opt for limitations instead of irresponsible growth,” he said.

Angus Kidman, travel expert at comparison website Finder, told news.com.au the changes being made in Amsterdam could also deter another category of tourists in addition to the party animals.

“Amsterdam’s campaign comes with some real teeth – as well as tightening up rules around cannabis smoking, club hours and alcohol sales, it has also cut the amount of accommodation. That will drive prices up, and is likely to discourage bargain-hunting tourists,” Mr Kidman said. “I don’t think any city can make itself 100 per cent free of bogan visitors, but it can definitely cut down on the number of visitors, and make it clear that ‘anything goes’ is not an option.”

However, he doesn’t expect Amsterdam to disappear from bucket lists any time soon as it still holds its status as a historic city and its laws around smoking cannabis remain relaxed compared to other destinations.

There has been mixed reaction online to Amsterdam’s message for tourists, with many foreigners surprised it would tell international visitors to stay away.

Some suggested the authorities would “change their tune” as the absence of tourists spending became noticeable.

“Problem is the residents don’t want the tourists but everyone else does … bars, hotels, cafes, shops etc.,” one person wrote.

“I lived in a tourist town. While your economy depends on it, it does get tiresome people coming through pissing, throwing up, dying every week on your sidewalks and hotels,” another person said.

More than 18 million people are expected to visit Amsterdam this year.

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