Mass tourism in the Red Light District?
Dollebegijnensteeg at 2 in the afternoon on a Friday is empty
A short while ago a book was published, called 'Aan de Amsterdamse Wallen'. The book is about Amsterdam's Red Light District and the transformation of the area under Project 1012, and is written with the contribution of the mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan. The book is also financed by the main investors behind the plans of the mayor of Amsterdam, to further gentrify the area and close down more prostitution windows, Syntrus Achmea. The book was also (unsurprisingly) presented first to the mayor of Amsterdam.

The book makes all sorts of claims. For example, that there were many so called 'mafioso' owning buildings, to use them as a front for criminal activities such as money laundering and human trafficking. These 'mafioso' would mainly be using window brothels and coffeeshops as a front for their criminal activities. But interestingly enough, since they started the project in 2007, they have never been able to find any of these so called 'mafioso'. None of the accused owners were ever found guilty of any of the crimes the city accused them of. In fact, one of the former brothel owners who was accused of this, Charles Geerts, even won a court case against these claims from the government.

Now, the writers of the book are claiming that the Red Light District is crushing under the huge amounts of tourists it gets. The reason to blame according to them? Well, the brothels and coffeeshops of course! Interesting, since I work there every day, and in the past few years I've only seen less tourists come there. In fact, if I go outside right now in the Red Light District, it's more empty than ever before. During the day there are hardly any people walking around. After 2 'o clock in the night there's almost nobody in the streets anymore, while years ago you could walk on the heads of people. When I came back from work 4 or 5 years ago at 5 in the morning, there were still people outside. These days I often don't even stay until that late in my window, simply because there's nobody in the streets.

It's so funny to see people claiming that mass tourism in the Red Light District is getting too much, which should make my a very rich person, because that would mean I could make a lot of money. But that fact is that I don't. In fact, when I walked around the day before New Years Eve, I could easily walk during the evening in the Red Light District, without any problems. If I would have walked there 5 years ago, it would've taken me at least 30 minutes to get from on side to the other, because of the huge crowds that came there. In fact, the last day before New Years Eve, it was even quieter than an average Monday evening years ago.

Three years ago for example, on New Years Eve, I wanted to go with my fiancé to the Dam Square to look at the fireworks. My workplace is less than a 5 minute walk away from there. After 30 minutes of struggling through the crowds we finally gave up, and went back, because it was too crowded. Last year on New Years Eve my street was almost empty on New Years Eve. My fiancé was even surprised to see how empty it was. There were hardly any people in the street, in contrary to the years before when you could hardly get through the crowds.

They can claim what they want, but I don't see more tourists at all. In fact, I see much less tourists coming to the Red Light District. Why do you think so many prostitutes are complaining about the lack of clients and income? It's not because it's so freakin' busy. A couple of years ago, 5 in the morning all the girls would still be working behind the windows. These days around 2-3 in the morning, you see most girls already going home. And this is also something that other people have noticed. Clients on websites like write that so few women are working behind the windows, that so many windows are empty. Not such a weird thing, if there are hardly any people outside anymore.

Statistics say that there's more tourism. Well, I don't know where, but at least not in the Red Light District or at the Damn Square, where I live close by. I've never seen the Red Light District this quiet before. The claims that the writers of the book make are complete nonsens. But than again, the book is being financed by investors and contributed by a mayor that both have a desire to continue with Project 1012, and close down more coffeeshops and window brothels. Go outside people, and ask any prostitute right now, working in the Red Light District, and ask her if she sees if there are more tourists. I will guarantee you that they will answer that it's less!

Last week we took some pictures of the former brothels. It was a normal Friday afternoon, the streets were mostly empty. If we would've taken this picture a couple of years back, it would have been impossible to take pictures without any people in it. The closure of window brothels only resulted in less people, I can say from 6 years of experience. There are not more tourists in the Red Light District, there are less! If there really would be more tourists, I would really like to know where, because I ain't seeing them each day when I work there.

Dutch version

4 Responses
  1. Unknown Says:

    I guess the government decided it could do without “that” sort of tourism, but I do wonder what the drop in revenue from the destination tourists (which must have accounted for at least 10% of the visitors to the city) as well as the lack of tax now collected on what other counties would consider vice?
    If it were London all those empty buildings would be “luxury apartments” by now and priced well out of the reach of most Londoners. I’m curious as to what will happen to those buildings you pictured in you other post.

  2. Unknown Says:

    Dear Felicia Anna,

    Hope this letter finds you well.

    My name is Tsaiher, a Taiwanese-Dutch urban planner and architect. We have met last year around November with COSWAS from Taiwan. But I am not sure if you would remember me since there were so many people during the meet-up.

    Since 2009 I have been involved in researching the spatial organisation in Amsterdam’s Red Light district, as well as the impact of gentrification plan (Plan 1012). I also worked with several NGOs including COSWAS since then.

    Since 2013 I have been working on a book about this issue, describing how global cities and their sex industry and red light districts are confronted with urban renewal and gentrification.

    The book is going to be published in June this year, by a Canadian architectural book publisher:The Architecture Observer. The name of the book is called: Red Light Urbanism.

    As a reader of your blog, I am wondering if you might be interested to write a short text for us, describing your view as a sex worker about your city and your working environment, the red light district.

    If you might be interested we could send you the manuscript for your reading and reference.

    Thank you very much for reading my mail!

    Sincerely, Tsaiher

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Hello Felicia,

    I recently came across your blog, and this comment is perhaps too late. Also, I have never lived in Holland, and do not know how the legislative politics works in that country. My comment, therefore, is based on the American legislative system.

    There are two ways (not always mutually exclusive) sex workers can influence politicians to enact laws in their favor, or at least not to take any measure that puts sex workers at a disadvantage: (i) by forming a voting block that is large enough to be able to vote politicians in/out of their offices; and/or (ii) by acting as a pressure group/lobby that is influential/rich enough to promote politicians who are going to protect its interests. My understanding, and please correct me if I’m wrong, is that most sex workers are not Dutch citizens, and are, therefore, unable to vote. As for forming an influential lobby, you are in a better position to talk about it than I am. But surely, the politicians know which way their bread is buttered! It’s a cynical way to look at it, but politics is a cynical game, and politicians live from one election to the next!

    I hope you won’t get disheartened by these developments (which is easier for me to say). I have truly enjoyed reading your blog!

    Best wishes,

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