Founded in 1862 along the historic Singel canal, the Bloemenmarkt in Amsterdam was the world’s only floating flower market and a landmark of the city of Amsterdam. Some tourism blogs call it a must-see, but on TripAdivsor the market only receives 3.5 out of 5 stars, most recent reviews being bad. TripAdvisor user 678mvi calls the market a “terrible disappointment”, mostly selling “cheap merchandise for tourists”.
On the 16th of April 2019, Dutch newspapers reported that the last florist of the Bloemenmarkt had closed down. “The tourists have ruined my business”, he told a reporter. According to municipal policy, only 25 percent of the products sold at Bloemenmarkt flower stalls are allowed to be ‘related products’, but this policy is not enforced. In reality, most stalls focus on selling souvenirs which tourists can easily take home, such as plastic tulips, tulip bulbs, or marihuana seeds.
The Bloemenmarkt is illustrative of the effects of an unsustainable form of tourism which many popular destinations face. According to the World Tourism Organization, sustainable tourism is tourism which meets “the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future”. Both tourists and residents are attracted to the Bloemenmarkt because of its cultural value, but because the market attracts so many tourists who photograph but don’t buy fresh flowers, the unique floating flower market transforms into a bunch of floating souvenir shops. As a result of this, Amsterdam’s cultural environment is damaged, needs of tourists and residents cannot be met (the TripAdvisor reviews are testimony to this) and future opportunity to visit this cultural heritage is lost.
With regard to the negative externalities of tourism, the Bloemenmarkt is only the tip of the iceberg. In other parts of Amsterdam, tourism causes congestion and pollution, and pushes up house pricescausinggentrification and transforming the character and ‘livability’ of many neighborhoods. With the number of visitors expected increase even more rapidly in the future, the pressure on the municipality of Amsterdam to design policies to put a stop to this unsustainable form of tourism is rising. Whether any of these policies will lure the florists back to the Bloemenmarkt, however, remains to be seen.
Bottom line: Tourism to Amsterdam in its current form threatens the livability of the city and the opportunities of future generations of tourists and local reisdents to enjoy the city’s cultural heritage.
* Please help my Environmental Economics students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice :).