Thoughts, Travel

Will there be a red light for Amsterdam’s Red Light District?

I was itching to write something-travel related this week, but I was contemplating if I really wanted to write about travel during the pandemic for the sole reason that it’s quite depressing. As I was scrolling through travel news, though, I came across something that intrigued me. It has to do with travel restrictions in Amsterdam, but not any set forth due to the pandemic.  

I’m not sure when I learned this, but I at one point gained the knowledge that Amsterdam is worried about its tourism numbers. While some might jump to the conclusion that their numbers are suffering, it’s actually quite the opposite. Amsterdam is trying to get its tourism under control and slow down the influx of visitors it has experienced over recent years. 

Photo by Skitterphoto on

The article I came across spoke specifically about the infamous Red Light District. According to Lonely Planet, Amsterdam is planning to move the “erotic center” to an undesignated location in a center built just for safe sex work. Additionally, the center will only allow Amsterdam residents to participate in an exchange. This means the historic Red Light District will be no more. This isn’t the first step the city has taken to transform sex work in its long and winding streets, though. In 2019, the city government announced all tours of the Red Light District were to be banned in central Amsterdam, with over tourism cited as the main issue. 

Should they put a red light to the Red Light District? 

I visited Amsterdam in November 2018 (I have yet to post about it — oops) and I took a tour of the Red Light District. While I refused to look into the windows in which the sex workers were advertising themselves out of respect, I know a lot of visitors act completely differently. While I understand Amsterdam wants to stop the gawking and cringe-worthy antics brought by out of control tourists, my first thought was if this is a feasible plan for sex workers. First, erecting a structure just for sex workers to do their job makes me think of crazy rules that bar 12-year-old students from using scissors for their safety (yes, it’s a thing in some places). It’s overbearing and needlessly controlling. Secondly, I believe stopping tourists from entering the proposed new Red Light District and from hiring sex workers can potentially have a completely detrimental financial impact on these workers. This concern is talked about in an article from The New Yorker.  Of course, I can’t change what Amsterdam decides to do, but this information really stunned me.

I totally get it — Amsterdam doesn’t want to be ruined by its own success. I just hope that the city has a plan for the shops (like its infamous coffee shops which the city is also wanting to place tourism regulations on), tour companies, and other businesses that have built their success around tourists. What do you think of this proposed plan by Amsterdam? Let me know in the comments below!  


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