International and domestic tourism are of substantial importance to the Dutch economy. The sector’s value directly comprised 4.4% of the total GVA and provided 496 000 jobs in 2019, accounting for 6.4% of total employment. The impacts of the pandemic saw tourism GVA remain 40.1% lower in 2021 at EUR 19.1 billion, or 2.5% of total GVA. Employment was less impacted, but there were 95 000 fewer tourism jobs in 2021.

In 2020, international tourists fell 63.9% compared to 2019, with a further decline of 13.5% in 2021 to 6.3 million overnight visitors. Typically, more than half of international visitors come from the top three markets of Germany, Belgium and France. In 2021, there were 2.5 million overnight visitors from Germany (39.5% of visitors).

The impacts on domestic tourism were limited, with domestic overnight visitors in tourism-related accommodation establishments falling 22.3% in 2020 and recovering to 25.5 million in 2021, just 1.2% lower than 2019. Domestic expenditure accounts for approximately three-fifths of total tourism expenditure.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy is responsible for tourism at the national level. Different provinces and municipalities either have their own tourism strategy or combine it as part of spatial or economic strategies. In addition, regional and local authorities deal with tourism matters such as funding regional and local destination marketing organisations and are responsible for domestic and international marketing and product development.

The Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions (NBTC) is the national destination management organisation. NBTC works on the country’s positioning, development and marketing for and with partners in different industries. The NBTC is subsidised by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, receiving EUR 9.2 million in 2021 (up from EUR 8.9 million in 2019) and funding from various third parties for specific projects.

The Centre of Expertise Leisure, Tourism and Hospitality (CELTH) is a collaboration between Dutch universities of applied sciences in tourism. The aim is to stimulate public-private partnerships in the field of knowledge and research in order to encourage collaboration between education, industry and government. Recently CELTH developed the Agenda Conscious Destinations (see box below).

During the COVID-19 crisis, the Netherlands worked with stakeholders in the sector to create a national Taskforce on Leisure and Tourism. The purpose of the Taskforce is to strengthen co-operation between the various parties. The Taskforce aims to restart the sector in the short term and form strong co-operation for a resilient and sustainable tourism and hospitality sector in the medium and long term.

In 2019, the Netherlands developed a national tourism vision, Perspective 2030, with the objective that everyone in the country must benefit from tourism. Perspective 2030 is used by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy as a guideline for future policy development and policy objectives. Achieving the ambition of Perspective 2030 requires a switch from promoting destinations to developing destinations and making visitor flows more manageable while capitalising on ambitions and opportunities. The vision centres on the shared interest of residents, visitors and businesses. It is based on five strategic pillars:

  • Creating more benefits than burdens from tourism.

  • Making the Netherlands attractive everywhere by positioning different destinations.

  • Promoting accessibility and reachable tourist destinations.

  • Enhancing sustainable tourism with less waste and pollution.

  • Building a hospitable experience for visitors.

The NBTC, the Ministry and the provinces adopted a related action programme, used as a living document in which the strategic pillars are worked out. Despite the enormous effect of COVID-19 on the tourism sector, the three main policy goals remain:

  • Sustainable growth of tourism.

  • Increased co-operation between different layers of government.

  • Support for the tourism sector, focusing on opportunities for sustainability, entrepreneurship, innovation and digitisation.

The NBTC, together with stakeholders within the Taskforce, aims to align the Dutch tourism sector in accelerating climate action by developing a Roadmap for Climate Neutral Tourism in the Netherlands. This roadmap, which will be based upon the main pillars of the Glasgow Declaration, will bring together knowledge on the state of the destination regarding climate action.

Tourism is an integral part of the Netherlands’ enterprise policy, which focuses on stimulating innovation, entrepreneurship, digitalisation and sustainability, and access to financing and public services for business owners. In recent years the Netherlands has paid more attention to the sustainable development of tourism as the negative impacts of the country’s popularity and growth in tourism have become clear.

The Ministry is also responsible for encouraging innovation, digitalisation and sustainability for entrepreneurs, specifically SMEs. To encourage nationwide co-operation, the Ministry, together with NBTC and the provinces, organises the National Tourism Summit. Three editions have taken place since 2018. This involved a broad group of representatives of the business community, tourist organisations and government bodies from all parts of the country. The objective was to work on a joint approach to enable cities, towns and regions to benefit from growing tourism and learn from each other. 

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