Stallholder at Bloemenmarkt for 45 years says people taking pictures crowd out his regulars
Daniel Boffey – The Guardian
The last florist at Amsterdam’s floating flower market, the Bloemenmarkt, is shutting shop, blaming large groups of tourists for crowding out his customers and the changing nature of the historical city centre.
Michael Saarloos, whose family began selling flowers at the market on the Singel canal in 1943, said he was being drowned out by cheap stalls and tourism.
The Bloemenmarkt, founded in 1862, is promoted by the Dutch tourist board as a world-famous attraction within the Unesco-listed canal ring.
Saarloos said he was leaving because tourists hovering around his stall taking pictures made it difficult to serve genuine clients. The 16 stalls at the floating market are now dominated by vendors selling clogs, magnets, young cannabis plants, wooden and plastic tulips and bulbs.
“I have had enough of all the tourists who ruin my trade,” Saarloos told the Dutch newspaper De Trouw. “If they are here with a group, I can no longer serve my own customers.”
Amsterdam has struggled to cope with a tourist boom, with an estimated 18.5 million visitors flocking to the city this year, raising concerns about its so-called Disneyfication.
By 2025, about 23 million visitors annually are expected. Local politicians have sought to reclaim the city for its 850,000 inhabitants by limiting the concentration of tourist-orientated shops and food outlets.
Antisocial behaviour has been targeted with fines. Urinating in a canal can cost €140 (£120), as will disturbing the peace in public places or dropping litter. Tourists are also being encouraged to visit other parts of the Netherlands.
Saarloos, who is moving to a location 750 metres from his traditional spot, said the floating market was no longer a feasible business for him, and accused Amsterdam central borough council of failing to enforce the rule that stipulates only 25% of any stall can be used to sell non-plant related products.
“There is another flower man here, but he mainly sells bulbs. I am the only one who gets his hands dirty with making bouquets,” Saarloos said.
Saarloos, who worked at the stall for his father-in-law for 25 years before buying it from him 20 years ago, said the changes had happened in the past decade.
“In the spring, people from Amsterdam came to fetch plants for their garden or on the balcony,” he said. “There was always a lot to do. But all those cheap flights flood the whole of Europe. All day long the florist has to shout what I’ve written on the signs: ‘Do not photograph!’
“I asked the municipality for help a few years ago. I am drowning, I said, because of what you allow in other stalls. It is full of magnets here.”
A spokesperson for the council told De Trouw they were unhappy with Saarloos’ decision, describing it as a “very unfortunate indeed”. They added: “We want to make it [the market] more attractive.”