Some years ago, my family was visiting from Québec and one of the places they insisted on visiting was the Kinderdijk, a Dutch UNESCO heritage listed place that attracts people from all around the world. At the time, we found it touristy, but not too busy or crowded. However, today if we believe the media, it’s now a lot busier to the point where the people who live there are ‘totally done with it’.
Mass tourism is getting a lot of press in Europe because it messes up local people’s living environment. In the Netherlands, places like Amsterdam and Volendam have issues with tourists, and the very small Kinderdijk is now on the list of places that are vocal about the problems it faces, as tourists don’t seem to realise people actually live there.
Only 60 people live there, and they have to deal with some 600,000 tourists a year, according to the Volkskrant newspaper. Tourists visit the windmills and learn about water drainage, and when they leave, they are given a picture of the windmills that says ‘Thanks for visiting’, which if you turn the card over says ‘600,000 visitors a year. Sixty residents. #overtourism’.
The stories range from residents being told to move out of the way, so that people can take a better picture (I’ve had that happen to me in Volendam while I was on a sailboat that was docked, and the tone of the man who told me to move didn’t make me move) to waking up to tourists eating at their picnic table and being yelled at by a photographer because the windmill wasn’t turning.
In 2010 the plan was to cap tourism at 400,000 according to a regional business plan, but now it’s 600,000 visitors and plans to grow to 850,000, which means the Kinderdijk could lose its current character.
I guess I’m glad I visited it when I did.