The Netherlands Board of Tourism and and Conventions (NBTC) have criticised the government's plan that aims to ban foreigners from coffee shops. The Board released the following statement:

Statement of the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions

The new coalition government in the Netherlands has announced its intention to make all coffeeshops in the country private clubs open only to card-holding customers. The cards will be obtainable by residents of the Netherlands aged 18 and over. This measure might mean that foreign tourists will be ineligible and will no longer have access to coffee shops in the Netherlands. The purpose of the measure is to reduce use of soft drugs among young people and to cut down crime and street nuisance near coffee shops. The Lower House of Parliament will decide on this matter in the near future.

Unlike many other countries within and outside Europe, the Netherlands has a policy of tolerating the use of soft drugs such as cannabis (weed). Under this policy it is not prohibited to use soft drugs provided that it occurs under controlled conditions. All acts involving cannabis are illegal except for its consumption. The minimum age for using soft drugs is 18, but providing soft drugs to minors carries heavy penalties.

Under certain conditions coffee shops are allowed to sell soft drugs. Although selling soft drugs is an offence, their sale in small quantities in coffee shops is not subject to prosecution. However, the coffee shops must satisfy certain conditions:

  • not more than 5 grams per person may be sold per day
  • no hard drugs must be sold
  • sales to minors are prohibited and minors must not be allowed into coffee shops
  • no alcohol must be served
  • advertising of drugs is not allowed
  • no nuisance must be caused to local residents
  • the trading stock must not exceed 500 grams.

How will the possible introduction of the Weed Card affect inbound tourism?

We don't know. Research conducted by the Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board (ATCB) shows that 'coffee shops and soft drugs' is one of the reasons why 7% of all visitors come to the city for a stay. Almost one quarter of all overnighting tourists say they have visited a coffee shop while in Amsterdam.

The Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions (NBTC) is the organisation responsible for marketing the Netherlands nationally and internationally. NBTC promotes the country by means of target group segmentation and Product Marketing Partner Combinations (PMPCs). We are aware that matters like the Red Light District and the legal use of soft drugs are matters associated with the Holland 'brand' but we do not actively promote them.

It is possible that a decision to introduce the Weed Card will reduce the number of foreign tourists who choose Amsterdam or the Netherlands as a destination for a stay. But a less liberal policy might also attract new tourists. There is little that we can say about this subject in concrete terms. If it transpires that fewer tourists visit the Netherlands it will be a cause of great regret for us.

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