Yesterday night Amsterdam was extremely crowded, according to an article published Sunday morning on local news channel AT5.nl. This however does not stop The Guardian to tell a completely different story. On the same day as Amsterdam authorities had to take extreme measures to stop massive crowds from coming to an already full city, the respected English newspaper published an article about Amsterdam as a ‘crowd free joy’. Amsterdam is not free of crowds and the measures the city had to take are hugely impacting a visit to the Dutch capital. Alleys leading to the Red Light district closed, street artists can no longer perform and the major shopping street, Kalverstraat and the Red Light district are now one way streets. Furthermore, the city invested heavily in COVID-19 hosts who will guide domestic and international tourists in an attempt to do crowd control.
If The Guardian would have done just a tiny bit of fact checking, they would have come across the countless social posts and articles reporting massive crowds in the city. Locals are complaining about the return of (mass)tourism on Twitter. Local city councillor Don Ceder came across these articles and went to see for himself. He posted that, although the city took lots of measures and the COVID-19 hosts are on the streets, it was even impossible to keep distance early in the evening, when crowds are usually lower than late at night. A video he added to his tweet shows overcrowded streets. Later that evening, the city of Amsterdam urged all people not to come to the area anymore because it was too crowded.
Naar aanleiding van de aangekondigde extra maatregelen van de gemeente ben ik zelf een kijkje gaan nemen op de wallen. Ondanks extra hosts en eenrichtingsverkeer is het op de vroege avond al erg druk en is 1,5m afstand amper mogelijk. Ook zijn straatdealers volop actief. pic.twitter.com/HhMA8taMEO
— Don Ceder (@DonCeder) July 18, 2020
However, The Guardian seemed to be willing to tell a different story. The newspaper took the offer of a free Eurostar ticket and free hotel room at Conscious Hotels Westerpark and sent one of its reporters. The journalist hopped on a bike from the hotel and explored a city that she argues is seemingly empty. Most likely, both the hotel and the train company wanted to boost occupancy as they are suffering from COVID-19. The news article that followed was a low quality piece that reads more like an advertorial than the high standard journalism we are used to read in The Guardian.
The Guardian describes some parts of Amsterdam that are quieter than before the crisis like the Rijksmuseum and Tropen Museum and also the local markets attract fewer tourists than before. Reactions on the reporter’s article already show that, thanks to her great publication, at least one tourist is now considering going to Amsterdam as the city is ‘a crowd free joy’.
The problem is not so much about what The Guardian wrote. You can indeed enjoy parts of the city without crowds. The problem is that The Guardian is only highlighting the angle desired by the hotel and train company, whilst ignoring the emerging problems caused by increasing amounts of tourists in the city. Overtourism has returned to Amsterdam and the situation is already so intense that the municipality is forced to fight back hard with extreme measures in order to protect its citizens. This superficial article in a major UK publication will lead to people thinking that Amsterdam is empty, while the opposite is true. We challenge The Guardian to retract this low quality piece and share the full and accurate situation with us.