How Zero Tourism Feels – In the last few years, Amsterdam become a major tourist destination. The annual number of tourists was always on the rise. In 2020, the numbers were predicted to be over twenty million visitors for the first time ever. Then, the corona virus hit and tourist numbers effectively dropped to zero. None of us have ever seen Amsterdam like this before. The streets are quiet, lots of venues temporarily closed and the once ever busy airport is empty. It is quite shocking how calm it is.
It is a total contrast to last year with the hordes of tourists that thronged near the central station and on Museumplein. Amsterdam had become a victim of its own success, as the sheer demand to visit the city just grew and grew. The government had been actively seeking to curb the tourist numbers and to encourage them to visit other parts of the country. These initiatives were also driven by Amsterdammers that believe that their city had become unliveable. Many were saying that Amsterdam had become a Disneyland with canals.
How Zero Tourism Feels during the Crisis
One thing that the corona virus lock down exposed is exactly how dependant Amsterdam is on tourism. The revenues from tourism touched almost every activity in the city and that has caused massive changes. For example: a bike rental company that now is only doing repairs. Canal cruise companies whose boats are idle. The closed hotels and restaurants. The museums. The cafes and bars. The tourist guides. The souvenir shops. The redlight and the coffeeshops. The list goes on and on. So there is a large number of people who would love the tourists to return.
And, there are many that now realise, not only that tourism is needed, but that that it can finally be reorganised. Amsterdam’s Mayor, Femke Halsema said just this week that there is a need to balance the return of tourism with the necessity to avoid a second wave of infections. There is no point in locking the country down to reduce the spread of the virus, only to open up the country to all and sundry. There is a fine line to walk in the coming months. It seems there is no right answer, only opinions, educated guesses and science. Time will tell. so, how zero tourism feels is strange and effecting large numbers of people in Amsterdam.
We rely on tourism.
This situation is desperate for those that rely on the tourists in order to make a living. The uncertainty of the future of Amsterdam tourism hangs over them. One of those people affected by the current situation is Dani Garcia. A couple of years ago, Dani opened a tour company. Her love of the city and enthusiasm for meeting people are the perfect mix for this activity. When I was thinking of this article, she seemed the right person to be asking questions about tourism.
Thank you Dani for answering these questions.
Q1. How it is you came to be a tour guide in Amsterdam?
Long story short, becoming a tour guide was not on my bucket list and I never imagined becoming one. This all changed when I moved to Amsterdam and realised that I have already been a guide all my life – for my friends and family. However, it was a hobby not a business (yet!). It all started quite organically, helping friends, friends of friends, and then the news spread to a broader network.
Being a graduate in business with experience in finance and consultancy helped me a lot. I realised that I could combine my passions for Amsterdam with my social skills, in order to show my perspective of the city. Also, with large international exposure, I always looked for exploring the cities as a local and in a unique perspective.
I quit my corporate job in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2017. The same year, I moved to The Netherlands to study, working part-time and learning more about the Hospitality and Tourism market. In 2019, I opened my own tour company, Amster.dani, to provide personalised tours focusing on culture, history and lifestyle. I love it here. Amsterdam is the city where I feel I belong and I do not plan to leave.
Q2. Tell us more about your tours
Amster.dani offers private and tailor-made tours in English, Portuguese, and Spanish. By foot, bike or boat, you can explore the city like a local – this is one of the reasons why I also offer tours to expats. The most popular tours are the bike and walking tours combined with the foodie and beer tour. The red light district and coffee shops are another tour but not from a traditional perspective… it explains history based on a chronological perspective.
However, my company offers some personalised tours such as night out or festival experiences, Ajax’s games, countryside visits in the windmills region, or picnics next to the flower fields. It means that you could go to the Dutch Awakenings festival and watch a soccer match at Arena with the planning assistance or companion of a professional local guide.
Q3. How sudden was the change to your business due to coronavirus?
The biggest change was that people could not come anymore to Amsterdam due to border closures. No tourist, no tours… right? So, Amster.dani made changes in the business model trying to adapt to the customer’s needs and also following the coronavirus guidelines.
Firstly, we had to quickly deal with the booking cancellations during the high season. A massive blow. Then, I deep dived into studies about human behaviour, global trends and disruptive innovation to understand the new world and tourism market in 2020. Then I had to prepare myself and the company for the future.
So, in May of 2020, I launched the online tours, broadcasting live from Amsterdam on Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube. It is also available on Zoom and Whatsapp. From the comfort of your own home, you will be able to fully immerse yourself in the vibes of this delightful city. This is an interactive adventure that will engage all of your senses.
Q4. How are you fighting to keep your business alive?
Well… I have never worked so hard before! I am not only fighting to keep my business alive, but also my dream. As I explained before, Amster.dani took the opportunity to rethink processes, products, and services looking to adapt to the online tourism world and new traveller behaviour.
As well as the online tours, Amster.dani is also working on parallel projects of e-books, web series, and podcasts/audio guides that will be launched soon. The main idea here is to manage the current situation but also create long-term solutions for when the market is back.
Q5. How do you see the future of the tourist trade in Amsterdam?
The traditional tourism market will decrease after the coronavirus outbreak. The municipality and hospitality leaders have been already discussing how to discourage tourism only interested in coffee shops and the Red Light District. The new tourism profile is more focused on museums, restaurants, and events.
Tourism based on culture, history and lifestyle is the key to moving away from mass market tourism. Quality services and personalised experiences are going to be more and more in demand. High end tourists will be the target for the city municipality and also Amster.dani. Summing up, I would say that the future of the tourist trade in Amsterdam is based on quality, not quantity.
Thank you Dani for answering our questions and giving your great insights on How Zero Tourism Feels.
To see more go to the Amster.dani website
Lots of great photos on the Instagram feed.
FYI: today on Instagram (Sat 23rd, 2020) Amster.dani will live broadcast an online walking tour in Jordaan and talk about the city infrastructure, canal, and boathouse, and give some tips about local restaurants, stores, and cultural activities in that region.
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