Amsterdam to youth travellers: Take a hike!
Young, budget travellers targeted with higher tourist taxes as city courts elite visitors
This week the City Council of Amsterdam is on the verge of approving new tourist taxes that will take effect in 2020. On top of the existing 7% tax that overnight guests pay for their lodging, a flat fee of EUR 3 per person per night will be added. For those staying at campgrounds, the flat fee will be EUR 1 per person per night. The city is also planning to charge tourists taking part in guided tours and festivals a flat fee of EUR 1.50 per person.
The proposed tax hikes have been criticised by Dutch industry associations and their members as unwelcoming, elitist, and unfairly targeting hotels catering to budget-minded travellers. Members of WYSE Travel Confederation, the global association for youth travel, have also made their dissatisfaction known about the proposed increases, with the general sentiment being that they are unfairly levelled at the youngest and most budget-sensitive visitors. Furthermore, a number of members are considering taking legal action against the city of Amsterdam should the tax measures be passed.
Read letter from a&o [NL and EN]
Amsterdam’s Deputy Mayor and alderperson for finance and economic affairs, Mr Udo Kock, has gone down on record with a preference for and goal to attract more of a stereotypical type of tourist to the city: a high-calibre visitor who supposedly takes part in certain activities, eats particular cuisines, and won’t overstay their welcome at a five-star hotel.
Does this cure-all tourist even exist or is it a pipe dream, Mr Kock? Does Amsterdam truly wish to become an elitist tourism destination?
As a travel trade association with its roots in the post-war student movements to facilitate cultural discovery through accessible international travel, WYSE Travel Confederation believes that travel and tourism is for everyone, no matter their age or means.
The global community of youth travel businesses represented by WYSE Travel Confederation acknowledges that each city has unique challenges when it comes to tourism. However, there is one suggestion that we believe applies to all scenarios: work with stakeholders to understand the issues, identify opportunities, and develop solutions. If travellers on a budget are your “problem,” then why not seek the cooperation of an industry association of businesses that can help examine your issues and be a part of the solution?
A few facts: the young, budget traveller
When we consider the youth travel segment globally, accommodation accounts for about 15% of the average total trip spend* and hostels are the most-used type of travel accommodation for young travellers. If we consider only spend in the destination, youth spend about 24% of their trip budget on accommodation. WYSE Travel Confederation’s research on young travellers over the last 15 years has consistently suggested that the money young visitors save by utilising hostel and other budget-friendly accommodation is spent in the local economy experiencing the destination.
Not only do hostels tend to be budget-friendly, they also function as social hubs for young travellers to meet each other and benefit from guidance on how to explore the destination like a local, whether that is independently or with an organised group. Our research has found that hostels play a role in generating more social benefits for travellers, including an increased appreciation of other cultures, more self-awareness, and improved language skills. Also, hostel users report undertaking more activities in a destination and being happier than young travellers utilising hotels or sharing economy type lodging.
Travelling with purpose
But budget travellers, especially the ones staying in hostels, are just boozing and bumming around, right?
Our research indicates that historic sites, shopping, and ‘living like a local’ are the top three in-destination pursuits of hostel guests. What else are they doing? Developing their creativity and enjoying music festivals.
While there is value in any tourist who can deliver positive world-of-mouth referral after a great time at a festival or an eye-opening visit to a museum exhibition, there are unique factors contributing to the value of the youth travel segment. The tendency of young people to travel with purpose and motivations beyond holiday and vacation and the potential for repeat visits over time are two stand-out characteristics of young travellers that many cities and countries have realised are opportunities for smart destination development.
Voting with your wallet
While travellers cannot vote by ballot in the destinations they visit, they can certainly vote with their wallets. Travellers of all ages are increasingly faced with responsible and sustainable choices to make – and rightfully so given the disparaging impacts that tourism can have on people, place, and planet. Furthermore, consumers of all types expect to understand the impact of their purchase decisions and the role that brands and corporations play in ensuring positive, or at least mitigated, impacts.
WYSE Travel Confederation acknowledges that Amsterdam has prioritised tackling environmental issues and is at the forefront of green and smart city development, however, we fear the city is missing the mark by disproportionately taxing the very people that will be important to its future as a smart tourism destination: youth.
We hope that Amsterdam will explain to all visitors how their tax money will be spent to improve the city for both visitors and residents. Most importantly though, we would like for Amsterdam to explain to young visitors, many of whom are on a modest travel budget, how the city plans to utilise the disproportionate financial contribution they will soon make to the city as visitors. We will encourage them to ask these questions to you and other destinations. Without this explanation, Amsterdam risks its reputation as a progressive, innovative, sustainable, honest, and open-minded city, only to become known as an elitist tourism destination by future generations of global citizens.
WYSE Travel Confederation
*Global average trip expenditure for youth travellers in 2017 was EUR 2,867.
New Horizons IV: A global study of the youth and student traveler, WYSE Travel Confederation, 2017.