The nineteen windmills of Kinderdijk are the best known windmills of The Netherlands. The windmills were built in the eighteenth century to pump surplus water from the polders to the river Lek. Today, the drainage is done electrically, but the mills still function in case of an emergency. Due to the unique character of the area, it was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997. Subsequently, the number of tourists increased explosively, up to around 600,000 visiting Kinderdijk each year. As most of the mills are still inhabited and the area is not designed for such a large tourist flow, tourism in Kinderdijk creates problems, such as tourists entering private gardens, parking cars, and flying drones in front of the mill windows. The income tourists bring is needed for management and maintenance, but the current flow creates an unliveable situation for those involved. Should residents be bought out and the area turned into an open-air museum? Are there other options? Parking lots outside the village with shuttle buses could reduce parking pressure, and buses with tourists to just take a quick 'selfie' could be excluded. Still, the area is increasingly being adapted to tourists: a brand new visitor’s centre was opened last year, new tour boats have started sailing and opening times have been extended. However, the mill residents are not involved in these plans and increasingly feel they are ‘strangers in their own homes’. The study area comprises part of the polder Alblasserwaard and focuses on the municipalities of Alblasserdam, Dordrecht, Papendrecht and Sliedrecht. Tourist arrangements around historic Dordrecht, Biesbosch National Park and Kinderdijk World Heritage may alleviate the local pressure and jointly illustrate the story of the water.
Policy Brief: Culural tourism and Europeanisation