Red Light For Visitors on Amsterdam City Break

The girls in Amsterdam’s Red Light District, possibly the world’s most famous city break attraction of its kind, are having an unusually hard time. Holiday clients are down and those that pay for their services are haggling over prices.

There are reports that some Red Light women have angered other working girls by accepting half the normal €50 for basic services. The shortage of city break tourists means some brothel owners see a whole day pass without a single client.

The Amsterdam Redl Light girls posing in the neon-lit windows have to pay hefty rents and it’s getting tough to make money. One or two clients a day doesn’t even pay for window rent of €150 a day.

Escort agency charges are normally higher than for the girls in the windows but the shortage of well-heeled businessmen means the normal €175 an hour rate is also having to be discounted.

The cut-backs in business expenses are hitting the more expensive clubs as holiday visitors opt for cheaper options. Many in the Red Light sex industry fear a change in attitudes is also hitting home.

Amsterdam has a famously liberal attitude to sex and drugs. Yes, prostitution has only been legal since 2000 but the Amsterdam Red Light District has been a major tourist draw for many years. Similarly, the city’s coffee shops, where cannabis can be sold openly set Amsterdam apart as a city break destination.

But the Netherlands is seeing some major changes. Amsterdam’s city government wants to cut the number of ‘Amsterdam Red Light District windows amidst fears of organised criminal activity. The coffee shops are coming under pressure too.

The Amsterdam sex industry is worth at least $ 100m and even more if you count the tourists attracted by the Amsterdam Red Light District who come to look.

This economic success of the Red Light District brings its problems, with the city’s officials pointing to an increase in violence. They blame this on the illegal immigration. With around 140 brothels in Amsterdam there’s up to 10,000 prostitutes in the city, the vast majority are from Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia.

Amsterdam’s Mayor Job Cohen is closing clubs and shops as well as buying about a third of Red Light District windows and turning them into studios for artists and designers. Officials have turned down the license renewals of about 30 Red Light brothels.

The mayor is also closing some of the city’s 70 marijuana cafes following the Government’s decision to ban the sale of magic mushrooms and the closure of all coffee shops situated near schools. He says, however, that he doesn’t want to get rid of the Red Light District but reduce it.

This could bring its own problems with many of Amsterdam Red Light girls forced on to the streets. It appears the industry is undergoing a massive change, just as Dutch society seems to be embracing a more conservative approach to many issues. It will be fascinating to see what happens to Amsterdam Red Light District in the longer term but there’s little doubt, credit crunch or otherwise, it will remain a city break tourist draw for years to come.

Andrea writes for TravelSavvy Amsterdam – independent city guide for tourists. For more information visit: Amsterdam city breaks.