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IAMSTERDAM

Transforming discourses on tourism

By Roos Gerritsma, Martine Roeleveld and Guido Stompff from Inholland University

Preliminary results of an extensive discourse analysis (2000 – 2020) on tourism and the impact on the inhabitants of Amsterdam reveal remarkably consistent, well known and opposing discourses. Smaller, transforming discourses emerged over time that attempt to solve the dualism and despite they are less in the news seem to have a large impact on policies.

The Amsterdam team of SMARTDEST gathered data from local and national newspapers plus other relevant sources that portray the evolving public discourse on tourism in Amsterdam. We expected that the discourse would be shaped by policy regime changes, while at the same time shaping local and national policies. Analysis is still ongoing, but preliminary results depict a remarkably consistent dualism between ‘growth’ and ‘liveability’ discourses. Besides two polarised  discourses, smaller discourses could be observed that seem to have planted the seeds for policy changes.

Starting with collecting thousands of media articles in the period 2000 -2020, the Amsterdam team of SMARTDEST team reduced the data set by strategically choosing  pivotal years in the development of Amsterdam tourism. Five years (2000, 2009, 2014, 2018, 2020) were chosen on the basis of a timeline in which policy changes and  major events were plotted. For example, 2014 was a jubilant year for Amsterdam tourism, including the reopening of one of its main attractions (the Rijksmuseum) resulting in extensive city marketing. While the public debate around excesses of tourists in the city can be traced back to 2000 (and arguably even before!), in 2014 that the debate hardened considerably. In 2015 a policy change attempted to rebalance the interests of residents, businesses and tourists and to enlarge the ‘liveability’ of the centre of Amsterdam, by means of a taskforce called ‘City in Balance’.

Over the course of these years the main discourses have proven to be remarkably stable, albeit the vocabulary and tone of voice and the spokespersons have changed. Although the numbers of overnight stays tourist in these two decades nearly tripled, the same dualism surfaces every year: between a ‘growth’ perspective versus a ‘liveability’ perspective. Whereas the first gives voice to economic considerations, the second voices concerns on the negative impact of tourism, although what is troubling residents changes over time. Whereas in the past pickpockets and small drugs related crime dominated this discourse, in recent years it has turned to nuisances in relation to AirBnB, stag parties, the city as a ‘themepark’ revolving into the qyuestion ‘who owns the city’.

In between these main discourses, several others emerge that attempt to transform the dualism, offering an overarching perspective that integrates opposing viewpoints. For example, at the beginning of the century the ‘tolerance’ discourse (e.g.: “Amsterdam is the gay capital”) offered such an overarching perspective, striving for both economic growth and tolerance, that is: more tourists and an inclusive city. Lately, the ‘reinvent tourism’ movement also offers such a transformative perspective, striving for an inclusive and sustainable kind of tourism, bringing tourists and residents together. Of particular interest is that these overarching, yet smaller perspectives seem to be influential on policy makers, offering a way out of opposing viewpoints. For example, the  highly successful ‘I Amsterdam’ city identity campaign that started in 2004 explicitly celebrated the diversity of it’s residents, arguably inspired by the ‘tolerance’ discourse.

Platform Failures – How Short-Term Rental Platforms Like Airbnb Fail Cities

The uneven relationship of short-term rental platforms like Airbnb with cities. A kind tourism that extracts local resources for the economic benefits of few, contributes to social exclusion of many.

A report written by Murray Cox, the data activist founder of Inside Airbnb, and Kenneth Haar, of Corporate Europe Observatory, provides insights on how short-term rental platforms have become one of the biggest exclusionary drivers in large tourist cities.

Report’s Highlights. Platforms refuse to cooperate with cities, fail to self-regulate and to comply with regulations to protect affordable housing for residents.  The report also provides insight on what the forthcoming Digital Service Act should deliver to support the legal capacity of cities to protect housing.

How Airbnb fails cities. In Amsterdam, Airbnb withdrew the ability to enforce a 60 days cap after the city tightened regulations; in Barcelona, Airbnb provides data but the 60-70% of the addresses of property on offer are missing or incorrect; in Berlin, the 80% of Airbnb listings are still illegal and the platforms refuse to provide data; in Paris, the 60% of Airbnb listings are illegal; 85% active listings are illegal; in Vienna, Airbnb refuses to remove listings offering hospitality in social housing.

What unequal consequences. Concretely, the report shows how many apartments short-term rental practices ended up extracting from the cities’ housing market and which effects that had on access to housing. In in some neighbourhoods of Amsterdam, this amounts to 1 out of 9 units rented on Airbnb; in Paris, 15,000-25,000 apartments; in Prague, 15.000 apartments; and in New York between 20,000 and 25,000. In Barcelona, the rise of Airbnb in areas of high intensity have determined a 7% increase of rents and a 19% increase of and property prices.

What could cities do to enforce regulations. 1) Mandatory Registration System; 2) Platform Accountability, 3) Platform Data Disclosure.

What is the best scenario for the new EU’s Digital Service Act. Exclude the digital platforms like Airbnb or Über from this act following decisions by the European Court of Justice in December 2017.

How could the Digital Service Act favour the right to the city. 1) Enforce the cession of disaggregated data to planning authorities; 2) Obligation to provide valid and certified data; 3) Acceptance of authorisation schemes for both hosts and platforms; 4) Full cooperation on the sanctioning of illegal listings; 5) Full liability where platforms operate. 6) No obstruction from the Commission in urban regulation of platform economy when it comes to protect fairly access to urban assets, like for instance housing.

Download the full report HERE.

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