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By The Way
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The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Amsterdam launches ‘Stay Away’ campaign to discourage drug tourism

The city produced a couple of PSAs targeted at young British men visiting for bachelor parties

(Illustration by Katty Huertas/The Washington Post; iStock)
3 min

The latest tourism-related ads from the city of Amsterdam look more like scenes from “Cops.”

Over footage of a lurching man getting cuffed, placed into the back of a police car and sitting in a cell, a message warns that “getting trashed” in the city known for its cannabis cafes and brothels could lead to a 140-euro (more than $151) fine.

“So coming to Amsterdam for a messy night? Stay away,” says the ad, which went online Tuesday.

Another video depicts a young person who is passed out on a park bench getting loaded into an ambulance before lying in a hospital bed. The message, about the dangers of drug use, is the same.

Amsterdam's city government produced a video campaign to warn foreign tourists about the risks of partying in the city. (Video: Gemeente Amsterdam)

According to the local government, the ads are part of an online “Stay Away” campaign targeted at British men between 18 and 35. The initiative seeks to discourage “nuisance tourists” who have plagued the Dutch capital for years. Officials say visitors from elsewhere in the Netherlands and from other E.U. countries could be added later.

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A news release promoting the campaign says potential visitors who use search terms including “stag party Amsterdam,” which references bachelor parties, as well as “cheap hotel Amsterdam” and “pub crawl Amsterdam,” will be served warning ads that include the risks of overindulging in alcohol and drugs. The messaging could evolve in the coming months, according to a city news release.

“Visitors will remain welcome, but not if they misbehave and cause nuisance,” Deputy Mayor Sofyan Mbarki said in the release. “In that case we as a city will say: rather not, stay away.”

The city of Amsterdam's "Stay Away" campaign seeks to dissuade men ages 18-35 from using street drugs. (Video: Gemeente Amsterdam)

The “Stay Away” effort begins as Amsterdam is scheduled to start rolling out anti-nuisance measures it approved late last year. The city previously said that, starting in April, it would enforce earlier closing times for some businesses, including brothels, restaurants and sex clubs with catering licenses. A new rule banning pot-smoking in the streets of the Red Light District is expected to go into effect in mid-May.

Under a tolerance policy for weed in the Netherlands, people are not prosecuted for buying up to five grams of cannabis, which is sold in coffee shops.

Looking to dodge Amsterdam’s crowds? There are three remarkable towns a short train ride away.

According to the news release, another campaign is launching for visitors who are already in town to show them “How to Amsterdam.” Key points, which will be communicated online and via physical signs, include: no public urination, loud noise or buying drugs from street dealers.

City officials say they are also in talks with organizers of stag parties about how they can help address disruptive tourism.

Mbarki said in the announcement that Amsterdam has already taken significant measures against “excessive tourism,” but needs to do even more.

“Amsterdam is a metropole and crowds and bustle are inherent features, but to keep our city liveable we now have to choose for restriction instead of irresponsible growth,” he said.