“It won’t stop us!” British not convinced by Amsterdam’s stay away campaign
Amsterdam has launched a marketing campaign meant to target young British telling them they should "stay away" from the capital if they are only looking for a "messy" weekend in Amsterdam, according to a statement published by the municipality on Tuesday. The launch has garnered attention in England, with for example the Daily Mail featuring the headline: "No sex please – you’re British." One tourist from London told NL Times, "It’s big in the UK right now." His friend added that "everyone is telling jokes about it." In fact, the campaign has even led to a seven-fold increase in Amsterdam bachelor party bookings organized by one British firm.
The campaign will geo-target target young British men aged between 18 to 35 years old with ads being triggered if they search terms like "stag party Amsterdam" or "cheap hotel Amsterdam" online. These include videos warning visitors coming to Amsterdam for a "messy" weekend that they might face arrest, a criminal record, or hospitalization. "Visitors will remain welcome, but not if they misbehave and cause a nuisance. In that case, we as a city will say: rather not, stay away," said Sofyan Mbarki, who is both a deputy mayor and alderman responsible for economic affairs and the approach to issues in the inner city.
UK-based party companies have expressed their disapproval of the campaign, arguing that it is unjust to penalize the majority for the actions of a few troublemakers. Matt Mavir, managing director of Last Night of Freedom, a British company that arranges bachelor parties in Amsterdam, has called the campaign "sensationalist and xenophobic" in a press statement. He argued that the majority of British visitors are decent and that singling out the British was "outrageous."
Rob Hill, Managing Director of Fizzbox, a British organization that organizes party activities across the UK and Europe said his customer base is made of “thoughtful people” that just want to have a good time with their friends "before getting married."
British tourists in the Red Light District who spoke with NL Times shared the same concern. "Everyone can be naughty with drink, not just the Brits," remarked one of them. "I’m pretty sure the Dutch are the same," he added. Many questioned why they were being specifically targeted. "Everyone is having fun in Amsterdam, so why just blame us?" asked another.
Others British tourists view the campaign as a positive development. A tourist from Manchester said it was "a brilliant idea." He said the campaign might "filter out the terrible tourists and scare them off." His friend chimed in. "Most British people are decent 360 days a year. But once they're here, they just let loose." He compared it to Disneyland, noting, "You're not yourself when you're on a roller coaster."
But not everyone thinks this will have the right effect. "They’ll keep coming," said three Irish tourists in chorus. "Actually it might even encourage them to come ”added one of them. "Amsterdam will always be Amsterdam, no matter how hard you try to change it, it won't do much to stop stupid people to be stupid," remarked a British sitting next to them.
This is currently confirmed by bookings online. The Stag Company, a company organizing bachelor parties based in Brighton in England, reported on Thursday that bookings for Amsterdam shoot through the roof following the launch of the campaign, with booking going up by 649% on Thursday. "We’re seeing unprecedented growth in sales for Amsterdam which meant we have spent most of the day in conversations with our suppliers to make sure we can offer more dates," said the General Manager Jordan Herbert in a press release. He added that this campaign saved them money on advertising.
The same is true for Fizzbox. According to Managing Director Rob Hill, the current increase in bookings will push Amsterdam up to the first place for 2023 hen party bookings.
The stay away campaign, ironically, seems to be counterproductive so far. Lars Duursma, a communication strategist, told Het Parool that the campaign is more of an incentive for tourists to come and misbehave. "And because of all this media coverage, a much larger audience is reached."
Most British tourists who spoke with NL Times echoed this sentiment. "You can’t stop us!" exclaimed one. According to a few of them, a solution to combat disruptive tourism in the Red Light District would be to increase police presence at night and improve law enforcement.
Another British tourist, while finishing his pint of beer on a terrace, joked, "If you don’t want us, just close off the North Sea!"