Challenge At home in a changing North: stories and tours as bridge builders 

Challenge At home in a changing North: stories and tours as bridge builders 


Started: February till June 2024

At home in a changing North –  stories and tours as bridge builders 

This semester, together with network partners and members of the local community, our students (lab learners) will work on the issue of how tourism and leisure can be used as possible strategies to make a positive impact for Buikslotermeerplein (BSMP), the surrounding neighbourhoods, and all users. The challenge is to develop concepts around storytelling and tours that contribute to the local community, economy and living environment. We are working closely with the following collaborating partners: Tours that Matter, Foundation Warm Welkom Amsterdam, the Boven ‘t Y shopping centre, Municipality of Amsterdam North city district and amsterdam&partners. 

Bridge building, why? 

Why is it actually necessary? The Amsterdam North district is undergoing a huge transition phase. Many new (tall) buildings are being added and some other buildings are actually being knocked down. It was only a few years ago that a metro link was established. Every month, many new residents pour into North: from expats to exchange students, from people from the rest of the Netherlands to young adults moving out on their own. So, North is becoming increasingly diverse on a lot of levels. The municipality wants to transform Amsterdam North into one of the new cores of the entire city (Visie Toerisme in Amsterdam 2035). As a result, it is working hard, among other things, to create new leisure concepts, for residents from North, Amsterdam and beyond. 

All these changes evoke different reactions; for some, things are not moving fast enough and for others it feels like they no longer recognize their own city district. Still others say that there should be more focus on other investments, see for example Red Amsterdam Noord. How do you navigate between all these different reactions, feelings, perspectives and opinions? How can you make all these different groups feel heard and feel (more/less) at home in Amsterdam North? To this end, our students will learn various co-creation methods, allowing them to include as many voices as possible in their design. 

Positive Tourism: regenerating places and communities 

Globally, more and more tourism and leisure entrepreneurs, cities, activists, researchers, destination management organisations, etc. are convinced that we should no longer encourage forms of tourism that deplete destinations and their communities. Mass tourism or over tourism actually create more nuisance, and don’t create a better living environment in a broad sense. Amsterdam wants to change this too. See for example Vision 2025: Redesigning the visitor economy of Amsterdam

The Urban Leisure & Tourism Lab Amsterdam also wants to initiate, facilitate and co-design a collection of positive tourism options. For instance, we are currently collaborating on and co-creating a Positive Tourism Hub for Amsterdam. The hub focuses on the following areas of positive tourism: 

  • Green
    Ecological and green activities and choices, ranging from choosing an electric taxi to helping out at an urban farm.
  • Social
    Social enrichment of the city by, for example, treating a resident to lunch or a concert, or actively contributing to a social project in the city.
  • Culture
    Opting for a small-scale, authentic offer, by small-scale cultural institutions, artists, local creators or social entrepreneurs and/or community organisations.
  • Livable city
    Beautifying/cleaning up public spaces, for example by collecting litter for half an hour or contributing to the creation of art in public spaces.

Our aim as a lab community is to also develop appropriate offerings for the Positive Tourism Hub, such as tours from this project. 

Input for tours 

How do our students create a tour that contributes to the surroundings? ? See video The story of a tour with impact. The students will participate on one of the inspiring tours of Tours that Matter in and around BSMP. They will learn more about the history, present and future of the area they will be working in. The students will also take part in a workshop by a storyteller and learn how to collect stories and use them for connection.  

Before we can develop one or more positive tourism tours as part of the network, there is a lot to figure out. As experience-designers, the students will start asking questions such as: what is already there in the BSMP area and surroundings? What inspiring examples are there worldwide, such as Migrant Tours? What is the identity of this area and its users? How do old and new Northerners find their way, and find each other? What is needed (viewed from multiple perspectives)? Where does the potential of this area and its community lie? What hidden treasures and other places, meaningful people/organisations and stories about the past-present and-the-future do we want to share with visitors? Which visitors do we actually target? Which means of communication do we want to use for this purpose? What role can the shopping centre Boven ‘t Y and the Story bench (developed by lab students) play in this? One of the groups of new Northeners is formed by status holders (refugees) and are actively involved in this lab track. What strikes them about North, what insights and stories would they like to share as a possible tour guide? 

Throughout our lab track, the students will have the chance to meet experts (tourism, design-based research, regenerative placemaking) and (experiential) connoisseurs of North (residents, Red Amsterdam Noord, the area broker, entrepreneurs, the Butterfly Garden). They will provide input to help our students to answer some of the questions above. Of course, they also go out themselves and look for various sources of advice, such as getting to know the Modestraat from inside out.