Amsterdam outlaws Red Light District tours from April; Several new rules on guided tours

Amsterdam Red Light District
Crowds gather in front of windows in Amsterdam's Red Light District. July 20, 20174kclipsDepositPhotosDeposit Photos

Organized tours through Amsterdam's famous Red Light District will be prohibited as of April 1, the city announced in a statement on Thursday. The ban on commercial tour groups of was also expanded to cover other areas where window-base sex work is permitted, including the area around the Spuistraat in the city center, and along Ruysdaelkade in Amsterdam Zuid.

Roughly 115 tour groups pass through the Red Light District, in the De Wallen neighborhood, on a daily basis, the city's mayor and alderpersons claim. They add that the city commissioned a study of the nuisance caused by the tours, which suggested about half of residents and businesses are annoyed by the tours.

“It is disrespectful to treat sex workers as a tourist attraction, therefore tours at De Wallen will be banned," said Victor Everhardt, the alderperson in charge of the city's economic affairs portfolio. "Tours outside of the Red Light District will still be permitted, but only if guides and participants of tours adhere to the new, stricter rules."

Organized tours are considered groups of five participants or more, meaning one guide may provide a group of four people with a tour of the sex workers' windows, a city spokesperson tells NL Times. The policy does however restrict the so-called "free" walking tours, as they are still considered commercial operations where a tourist tax must be collected.

Authorities will issue a 190 euro fine for tours lacking the proper permits, or for breaking the stringent regulations. A third offense could lead to the guide, or their employer, facing penalties ranging from 2,500 to 7,500 euros.

The new rules require all city center tour guides to be licensed, and tour groups to be capped at 15 people, a reduction of five. Guides are no longer allowed to solicit tourists on the street.

School groups are among those which are exempted from the new rules, because they are not fee based and the students do not generally pay the tourist tax over their events, the spokesperson also says.

Tours will only be allowed between the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. The groups will generally not be allowed to stop in front of building entrances, on narrow bridges, or in other busy places. The existing rules forbidding the use of speakers, alcohol and drug use, and shouting will continue into the future.

Tour guides who are fined three times will face a suspension of their permit. A fourth violation means the guide will lose their permit immediately.

No fines will be issued during a transition period from when the law takes effect on April 1. The city was vague about the duration of the warning period, saying it could last through May 12 at the latest.

The city first announced plans to ban guided tours of the sex workers districts last March, following a year testing out stricter rules on walking tours in the area. The full city council approved plans to impose firmer restrictions on tours in the Red Light District and other parts of the city center last May, with a goal of implementing the changes by the beginning of 2020.