On 23 May, the launch of the Expertise Network Sustainable Urban Tourism (ENSUT) took place at A-Lab, located in Amsterdam Noord. The event brought together tourism industry professionals and academics to work on sustainable urban tourism. The day was led by moderator Yasemin Oruc from Hotelschool The Hague, part of the network.
Upon entering, all 85 attendees were given a puzzle piece in their hands. This symbolised the variety of perspectives and challenges participants face in developing sustainable tourism. Participants were encouraged to work together and combine their puzzle pieces with those of other groups.
The first challenge consisted of solving a persona challenge. Once this was completed, participants could put their puzzle pieces together to puzzle together an elephant. This elephant symbolised the parable of the ten blind men and the elephant, which highlights how different perspectives can lead to a more complete understanding. This activation was designed by Arttenders.
After this engaging activity, professor Ko Koens gave a presentation on ENSUT’s vision and goals. He also shared the results of a survey on sustainable tourism and discussed specific results from cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Barcelona. Ko Koens’ presentation can be downloaded here.
In the afternoon, participants visited several locations in Amsterdam North. Here, they were welcomed by expert guides and professionals who gave insights into sustainability initiatives and innovative placemaking projects in the city. The locations visited were:
- Adam Tower – A 100-metre-high tower on the IJ bank, which is a landmark in Amsterdam North. Ramses van Hövell & Sander Groet took participants through the building, where music and creativity come together.
- A-Lab – A living laboratory and community of 300 creative and innovative members. Director Lucas Hendricks led the group along the IJ bank, giving insight into the development of the area and its challenges.
- De Ceuvel – A self-built incubator where sustainability and the circular economy take centre stage. Guide Amber Beernink took participants on an exploration of this inspiring tourist attraction.
- Placemakers – An introduction to placemaking as a method and philosophy for urban development, with a focus on tourism. Anna Dekker, sociologist and planner at Placemakers, discussed light, quick, low-cost and local approaches to responding to tourism, as an alternative to large-scale and long-term policy interventions.
- NDSM Wharf Foundation – A directing and stimulating organisation that initiates activities at the NDSM Wharf in Amsterdam. Programme manager Ewa Scheifes and event manager Gerke de Groot gave a guided tour and shared insights on art programming, placemaking and sustainable festivals.
- In Sixhaven, a group visited the Moestuinschool Amsterdam, where adults learn the art of organic gardening. Merijn van de Reep and Frederique Huls of STIPO explained the challenges they face as placemakers in Sixhaven. Afterwards, lab lead Roos Gerritsma told more about regenerative placemaking within the ULT lab Amsterdam, how it works with the quintuple helix model and how the lab, together with students, tries to make a positive impact with small interventions. Our graduation student Andromeda Achiaa had visitors listen to some stories, which will soon be available to listen to via the QR codes on the story bench at Buikslotermeerplein Amsterdam North.
Upon returning, participants shared their experiences from the site visits and concluded the day by discussing the next steps for ENSUT. The event was a great success and helped make valuable connections to make ENSUT a success.
We look back on an inspiring day full of knowledge exchange and collaboration, focusing on sustainable tourism in urban areas.