For years cities were fighting to attract tourists, nowadays the 4 big cities in the Netherlands also seem to see a downside. By means of policy, the municipalities try to steer the growth of the hotel sector in the right direction, and in the case of Amsterdam even to slow it down. In this article we take a look at the separate urban hotel policies of the four major cities in the Netherlands: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht.
Between 2007 and 2016, the number of hotels in Amsterdam increased by 31%. The number of hotel guests even increased by 61% since 2005. With this, Amsterdam has left cities such as Barcelona and Paris far behind in terms of growth in the number of hotel beds. But the growth also has disadvantages. Nuisance, hustle and bustle and waste mean that Amsterdam believes that the quality of life in the city has come under pressure. This has ultimately led to the announcement of a hotel stop as of 2017. In short, in principle, new hotels are no longer welcome in Amsterdam. Nevertheless, hotels will be added in Amsterdam until 2020 because requests for these were already approved before the introduction of the hotelstop. In addition, the Municipal Executive is authorised to make an exception to the policy on the grounds of very serious spatial-legal or economic grounds.
First of all, these hotels are only allowed in specific areas. These are mostly areas outside the ring road of Amsterdam, with the exception of Amsterdam North, where there are still plenty of possibilities. But apart from the location, there must also be a unique concept that actually adds something to the already existing hotel offer in Amsterdam. The initiative should therefore meet the following description:
The hotel makes a demonstrably exceptional contribution to both the innovative range of accommodation on offer in Amsterdam and to a special aspect of the social, cultural or economic climate. Only if it really adds something to the hotel market in Amsterdam and its immediate surroundings will an exception be made’.
It is also remarkable that the initiator not only has to convince the municipality that his hotel will be an asset to the neighbourhood, but the local residents also play a role in this. The initiator will have to demonstrate with a thorough report that there is sufficient support for the project in the neighbourhood and that there will be a positive connection with that neighbourhood. In the final assessment, the impact on the neighbourhood will then be taken into account.
In addition, the new hotel will also be subjected to a sustainability test. The City of Amsterdam has adopted the Agenda for Sustainability in 2015. As a result, the municipality is encouraging entrepreneurs to take more sustainability measures than the minimum which are required by law. If an initiator of a new hotel wants to get the green light, he is expected to go for the highest achievable level and strive for continuous improvement.
Finally, the initiator is required to submit a detailed plan demonstrating the existence of social entrepreneurship. This social entrepreneurship is tested against the standards of the Performance Social Entrepreneurship Manual. In short, this means that the activation and employment of certain target groups with a certain distance to the labour market must be promoted.
If it is decided to grant a permit, all agreements made to comply with the assessment framework will be laid down as far as possible in the special provisions of the leasehold contract or private law agreement. Sanction agreements may also be made in this respect.
Examples of new hotels
In view of the extensive assessment framework, it is not surprising that this significantly slows down the growth of the hotel offer in Amsterdam. Nevertheless, a number of new hotels have been added in Amsterdam in the recent period under this assessment framework. For example, a hotel has been added that mainly focuses on the so-called generation Z (born between 1995 and 2010) where everything revolves around technology and digital comfort. Another hotel was located in a building that had been empty for 12 years. The hotel is inspired by the seventies and explicitly seeks the relationship with the city and non-hotel guests. Finally, there is a new hotel that is inspired by Tiny Houses, creating an opportunity to combine living and working in a homely setting.
Between 2012 and 2016, the number of hotels in Rotterdam increased by 37%. The growth is mainly due to domestic visitors, but the number of foreign hotel guests also increased significantly. In 2017 alone, Rotterdam will have 600 hotel rooms, while the construction of the Ahoy hotel in 2020 will yield an additional 250 hotel rooms. Not only is the number of hotel rooms growing, but the occupancy rate is also increasing in Rotterdam. Whereas in 2016 it was still 69.4%, in 2017 this had already increased to 74.2% with an even higher occupancy rate to be expected for 2018.
Despite the growth that Rotterdam has experienced in terms of hotels, it is still open to new hotel initiatives. New hotel initiatives are assessed on two issues according to the assessment framework. Firstly, the spatial framework in which the municipality has designated places that it believes are best suited for hotel initiatives. In addition to the city center, Kop van Zuid, Ahoy and Hoek van Holland are also considered promising (but less than the city) locations. Secondly, the quality of the hotels are considered. These are assessed based on a scoring system with a minimum score per zone. In this way Rotterdam makes it easier for entrepreneurs to develop hotels in places in the city where it deems it desirable. In doing so, Rotterdam wants to encourage entrepreneurs to focus on the city centre.
The number of hotel guests in The Hague is also rising strongly. In 2018 alone, The Hague will have eight hotels with a total of 1,000 extra hotel beds. In 2013, The Hague’s policy was still aimed at less room for quantitative growth of hotel locations, but it has now (partly) come back to that.
The Hague is, in principle, favourably minded towards initiatives by private parties in the core tourist areas of Inner City and Scheveningen and will facilitate initiatives in these areas where possible. The Hague, on the other hand, is reluctant to facilitate initiatives outside the core tourist areas. Therefore, the ‘no, unless principle’ applies. It will not cooperate with necessary zoning changes unless the initiative has demonstrable added value for the city’s economy. Only if it concerns a unique and special concept that The Hague does not have yet, is it prepared to make an exception.
In 2010 there was still a shortage of hotel rooms in Utrecht. At the time, the ambition was expressed to realise a thousand new hotel rooms in the city by 2020. It turned out that this number had already been amply achieved in 2017. In addition, a number of initiatives are still under consideration, which means that Utrecht now wants to curb its growth somewhat.
While at first Utrecht wanted to focus on the realisation of hotels in the city centre in 2015, in the meantime the pressure on the city centre has increased to such an extent that the municipality now wants to spread the hotels more over the city. Presumably, the preferred locations in the area development plans will be adjusted for this purpose. Utrecht still has a relatively large number of 3 and 4-star hotels that are mainly focused on the business market. It is for this reason that in addition to these star hotels, Utrecht wants to create space for innovative (and often small-scale) concepts that also have room for the lower budget segment. Where zoning plans do not directly provide for the construction of hotels, in some cases a change authority can be used. In that case, however, conditions can be set that relate to planning requirements, environmental quality and economy. Initiatives that conflict with the zoning plan can be authorised by means of a zoning amendment if they fit within the policy.
The number of hotel stays in major cities has grown considerably in recent years. On top of the leader board is Amsterdam, which now sees reason to want to curb this growth and has set up a strict testing framework for new hotel initiatives. For the time being, new hotel initiatives are still very welcome in the other major municipalities, although they are managed at certain locations and in some cases assessed on the uniqueness of the concept. This is probably due to the speed of today’s developments in the tourism sector municipalities will be more inclined to adjust or adjust their hotel policy in the mean time. A more extensive assessment framework, such as in Amsterdam, is one possibility. Rapidly changing municipal policy can also provide hotel entrepreneurs with the necessary challenges in plan development. A plan that can go ahead today may meet with resistance tomorrow or vice versa. In addition, more and more entrepreneurs will probably be called upon to develop innovative (and sustainable) concepts in order to gain a place in the hotel sector of the four major cities.
If you want to establish a hotel but you are in doubt whether this is possible under the municipal policy, for example, or if you need help with a notice of objection if an application has been wrongfully rejected, please contact M2 Advocaten.
Lawyer Ginio Beij (firstname.lastname@example.org)
1] ‘The impact of the visitor economy on Amsterdam’, SEO economic research, October 2017.
2] Memorandum ‘Uitwerking Overnachtingsbeleid 2017 en verder’, October 2017.
3] See appendix 1 Area map, memorandum ‘Uitwerking Overnachtingsbeleid 2017 en verder’, October 2017.
5] ‘Check in The Hague: Room service 2.0’, Hotelstrategie Den Haag 16 July 2013
6] ‘Check in The Hague: Room service 2.0’, Hotelstrategie Den Haag 16 July 2013
7] Update on market space hotel memorandum ‘Room With A View’ Utrecht February 2015