Tourism growth requireschange in policy

6 September 2019 – The number of tourists visiting the Netherlands has grown exponentially in the past ten years and will continue to do so in the years to come. Tourism now generates as much revenue as the construction sector and more than double that of agriculture. The rising pressure of tourism is also causing ever more problems and inconvenience, however, a situation that is harmful to the living environment and that will, in the long term, be detrimental to the sector itself. Municipal, provincial and national policymakers are not taking enough interest in tourism to effectively manage its growth in the Netherlands in the future. This is the conclusion reached by the Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (Rli) in its advisory report Desirable Tourism: Capitalising on Opportunities in the Living Environment presented to the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and the State Secretary for Economic Affairs and Climate Policy.  

Tourism needn’t catch us unawares

At the moment, tourism policy is focused mainly on increasing revenue. But tourism is not only an economic activity; it also impacts accessibility and the use of public space, real estate, nature and the environment. It is only when an increase in tourism harms the living environment or inconveniences residents that the authorities consider how to counteract its impact. Tourism growth has made it urgent to change this policy perspective. This means that government, acting in cooperation with the sector and local communities, must anticipate future trends and developments, a necessary step if we are to strike the right balance between the economic benefits of tourism on the one hand and the carrying capacity of the living environment and local residents on the other. The Rli advisory report Desirable Tourism: Capitalising on Opportunities in the Living Environment offers a framework for analysis in this regard. National government must coordinate to ensure that the proposed policy changes are implemented.

Government must be forward-looking

The Council recommends drawing up a tourism strategy for all regions in the Netherlands within two years. Such a strategy would specify where and when to pursue tourism growth and what amenities should be provided. It would also, however, identify those places where a projected increase in tourism is undesirable and what measures can be implemented to influence the number of tourists, how they can be dispersed more effectively, or how inconvenience can be prevented.

It will not be necessary to develop new policy measures to manage tourism. In its advisory report, the Council presents a menu of management options consisting of existing measures from which policymakers can choose to limit adverse impacts and capitalise on new opportunities. Making effective use of these measures, accumulating the necessary knowledge and gaining experience in using them will require extra policymaking capacity and a willingness to invest. In addition, more research must be carried out under the auspices of the national government into the effectiveness of various policy interventions, for example in experimental settings. This approach will safeguard the Netherlands from being ‘caught unawares’ and harmed by tourism growth and ensure that tourism contributes to the quality of the living environment for residents, visitors and businesses.

Note for editors

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For information about the advisory report, please contact project leader Douwe Wielenga at