Floriade debacle may have led to over €175 million in losses
Last year’s disastrous Floriade in Almere cost nearly 212 million euros, and not the about 100 million euros previously reported, critics and whistleblowers told Parool. The horticulture event only made 36 million euros in income.
The municipality of Almere will publish the final bill in March. According to Hans van Driem of the group Floriade Critics, that will be all bad news or attempts to shift the blame. “It is scandalous how politicians are now trying to blame others and use Covid to get extra subsidies from the province and central to cover the Floriade failures,” he told the newspaper. Van Driem was responsible for Floriade in Zoetermeer in 1992. The critics he represents were all involved in previous Floriade editions.
In the summer of last year, the municipality of Almere calculated the costs of the Floriade at 94 million euros. Whistleblowers told Parool that the amount has since risen to over 100 million euros. According to the Floriade Critics, at least 40 million euros, but likely more around 53 million euros, in municipal costs need to be added to that amount stemming from buying out a campsite, marina, and sailing school, the construction of a noise barrier and a parking lot.
In addition, they argue that 49 million euros for the development of the new Hortus district that is being built on the Floriade site must also be included because it is inextricably intertwined with the Floriade. The Floriade Critics also add 12 million euros spent by the province of Flevoland, the municipalities of Almere and Amsterdam, among others, on their own pavilions at the event. That brings the total costs to 211.6 million euros, against 36 million euros in income, of which 26 million came from subsidies.
Last year, the Floriade event attracted only 685,000 visitors - much lower than the 2.3 million the municipality and organizers expected. They blamed the coronavirus for these disappointing results.
But according to the Floriade Critics, that can’t be the truth. At the opening on 13 April 2022, the Netherlands had already scrapped all its coronavirus restrictions. And figures from Statistics Netherlands and the tourism office NBTC show that the number of foreign and domestic tourists was almost back to pre-pandemic levels last year.
“Look at Keukenhof,” Van Driem said. “It attracted 1.1 million visitors last spring, 15 percent less than in 2019 due to the aftermath of corona. If you take that figure into account, the Folriade should have attracted 2 million visitors according to the official estimates.”
“Corona simply does not explain the debacle,” he said. “An attraction like Dierenpark Amersfoort attracted 800,000 visitors in 2022, more than the entire Floriade. Why did they succeed?”
According to the group, the Floriade’s downfall is due to a combination of years of self-overestimation by the municipality and the organizers, financial mismanagement, organizational chaos, marketing blunders, and design blunders. The critics say they raised all these issues long before last year’s edition, but they were invariably brushed aside.