City council wants to get rid of 'I Amsterdam' letters

Tourists at the I Amsterdam sign behind the Rijksmuseum
Tourists at the I Amsterdam sign behind the RijksmuseumPhoto: Mariordo / Wikimedia Commons

The famous I Amsterdam letters on the Museumplein have to go, according to a motion filed by the GroenLinks faction in Amsterdam. The slogan has become a symbol for mass tourism, the party finds. The motion seems to have support from the D66, PvdA and SP - a majority in the city council, Het Parool reports.

With the motion, GroenLinks asked the office of mayor and aldermen to remove the I Amsterdam letters from the whole city and to stop all city marketing activities under the slogan of I Amsterdam. 

This motion was filed on the same day that the Netherlands board of tourism NBTC presented a new study showing that tourism is growing faster than expected. In the coming years the number of tourists in the Netherlands is expected to increase by 50 percent, from around 40 million in 2017 to 60 million in 2030. The Amsterdam municipality expects 23 million tourists in 2025, but that expectation may be way too conservative.

A critical limit has been reached in Amsterdam and a new approach to tourism is needed, NBTC director Jos Vranken said, according to the newspaper. In this new approach, the interest of residents deserves more attention.

For Femke Roosma, GroenLinks leader in Amsterdam, getting rid of I Amsterdam can be the first step. "This slogan reduces the city to a background in a marketing story", Roosma said, according to the newspaper. As far as she is concerned, the city doesn't have to replace I Amsterdam with another marketing campaign. "Amsterdammers want to regain their grip the city, city marketing stands for the city as a product, and the grip of the big money."

I Amsterdam was launched under the leadership of former alderman Frits Huffnagel (VVD) in 2004. At that time Amsterdam was falling on a number of rankings - as a place of to live, a business location, and a tourist destination. 

Huffnagel thinks that removing the I Amsterdam letters is a bad idea. "Local residents are happy with it, because at that place in front of the Rijksmuseum all the tourists don't get in the way so much. If they spread into the area, the nuisance becomes much greater. It is an illusion to think that by scrapping I Amsterdam fewer tourists will come to the city", he said to Het Parool. 

Roosma acknowledged that getting rid of the letters will not curb the growth in tourism in itself. "For that we're taking other measures, also in this budget, such as the Red Light District approach that mayor [Femke] Halsema has announced. This proposal is about the soul of Amsterdam."

The Red Light District approach includes measures like stricter rules for tour guides and breaks for cleaning. The city also experimented with a ban on boating in the area.