Why the Dutch Government Wants You to Stop Referring to the Netherlands as ‘Holland’

In a push to redirect tourists to other parts of the country, officials are dropping “Holland” from promotional and marketing materials

Dutch canal
With the number of visitors projected to keep rising, the Netherlands tourist board has decided to shift its focus from promotion to crowd control. Jorge Royan via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 3.0

Though it refers to a limited geographic region within the Netherlands, “Holland” has become an oft-used shorthand for the whole of the country. Now, officials hope to shed this nickname. As Cecilia Rodriguez reports for Forbes, the Dutch government plans to replace “Holland” with “the Netherlands” as part of an effort to redirect hordes of tourists to other parts of the country.

Beginning in the new year, the name “Holland” will be dropped from official promotional and marketing materials. Companies, universities, government ministries and embassies will be expected to use the Netherlands’ proper title, writes Eben Diskin for the Matador Network. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also unveiled a new logo for the country: Instead of an orange tulip and the word “Holland,” the upgraded logo features the symbols “NL” and a “stylized” orange tulip.

“The new style is the result of a strategy developed to more clearly show what the Netherlands has to offer to the world,” a press release notes.

Of the Netherlands’ 12 provinces, just two are technically called Holland. There is North Holland, where Amsterdam is located, and South Holland, home to other tourist hubs like Rotterdam and the Hague. The region has been divided since 1840.

By the 17th century, the historical region of Holland had become the preeminent power of the Dutch Republic, with Amsterdam emerging as Europe’s dominant commercial center.

“Because of this predominance, both the Republic and the present Kingdom of the Netherlands are often called ‘Holland,’” according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

But the Dutch government wants visitors to know there is more to the country than its two most famous provincesparticularly as officials have been struggling to deal with an influx of tourists to certain hotspots. 19 million tourists visited Amsterdam, home to less than one million people, last year. And in South Holland’s “Bollenstreek,” or “Bulb Region,” tulip farmers have been battling throngs of visitors who trample the country’s iconic flowers in pursuit of the perfect photograph. Kinderdijk, a windmill-filled village also located in South Holland, is also being choked by tourists.

With the number of visitors projected to keep rising—Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema expects 29 million tourists by 2025, according to Deutsche Welle—the Netherlands tourist board has decided to shift its focus from promotion to crowd control.

“We say that ‘more’ is not always better, certainly not everywhere,” a tourist board policy document quoted by the Guardian’s Daniel Boffey states. “To be able to control visitor flows, we must take action now. Instead of destination promotion it’s time for destination management.”

Raising Amsterdam’s tourist tax and shutting down official tourism offices in Italy, Spain and Japan are two of the ways officials hope to curb the stream of tourists. Investing €200,00 (around $222,000 USD) in rebranding the country’s international image is another. Shifting attention from Holland to the Netherlands as a whole is an important part of the strategy, particularly as the country prepares to host high-profile events like the Eurovision Song Contest and the UEFA Euro 2020 soccer tournament.

It is, after all, “a little strange,” a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry tells the news agency EFE, “to promote only a small part of the Netherlands abroad.”

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