The Netherlands is a popular holiday destination. In 2007, about 11 million tourists visited the Netherlands, from Europe and from farther afield (the United States and Canada, and emerging economies such as China and India). Foreign tourists spend about €10 billion a year in the Netherlands – more than the annual earnings from the export of plants and flowers.
Amsterdam is the most popular destination for foreign tourists. The museums, such as the Rijksmuseum and the Vincent van Gogh Museum, the ring of canals lined with elegant town houses, the atmosphere of freedom and creativity – many foreigners want to see these with their own eyes.
But the Netherlands is also famous for its flowers: the bulb fields of North and South Holland, with their daffodils, hyacinths and tulips, attract hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, particularly in April and May.
The Netherlands has a long coastline, with many interesting towns and villages and areas of natural beauty. The beaches and dunes are ideal for many recreational activities such as cycling, walking, sailing and swimming. There are also excellent conditions for water sports further inland on lakes, rivers and canals.
The Dutch themselves often explore the country by boat or bike, and many tourists do the same. The Netherlands is criss-crossed by thousands of kilometres of cycle track, making it possible to tour the country by bike. Cycling in the flat landscapes of the Netherlands is easier than in most other countries – as long as you’re not cycling against the wind!
The Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions (NBTC), which has 17 branches in Europe, North America and southeast Asia (www.holland.com), is responsible for promoting and marketing the Netherlands as a tourist destination. Tourists in the Netherlands can obtain information from one of the many tourist information (VVV) offices around the country.
If you want to visit relatives in the Netherlands, you must meet a number of conditions. Use the Residence Wizard of the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) to find out what you need to do and what documents you will require. To find out more about the Netherlands before you visit, check out the general information at the website Holland.com. The site can also help you plan tourist excursions while you’re in the Netherlands.