“Will people still dare to come after this?”

Corona’s impact on local businesses is different from what you think 

Text & photo’s by Amy Steur

The Dutch idyllic fishing village Volendam would normally be overrun with tourists, but closed borders are keeping them away. This is a problem for entrepreneurs. Fish Shop De Haven (The Harbour) is allowed to remain open in times of corona, but Photography Studio Experience Volendam, a place where tourists can take pictures in traditional costumes, had to close their doors. Here, they explain how they’re both suffering in their own way.

Fish Shop De Haven:

What were your biggest fears when hearing about the governments’ measures?
“We were terrified we had to close our shop since we offer our customers a place to sit. But after removing the tables and chairs, we could stay open. We only allow 3 people inside and are only opened for take-away to comply with the measures.”

How big of a problem is it for you that tourists can’t visit Volendam?
“It’s a huge problem since we’re very dependent on them. Usually around this time of the year, crowds of tourists visit our shop and the only language you hear us speak to customers is English. Now, we’re only practicing our Volendam dialect. While it’s heart-warming to see how supportive the locals are, the lack of tourists is still a financial blow for us.”

How does it feel to be open while other shops in the historical centre had to close?
“We’re very lucky and happy to be opened, but on the other side it’s a bad thing for us as well that the shops around us are closed. We don’t have many people from other parts of the Netherlands visiting us: they know there’s nothing to do because everything is closed. We hope other entrepreneurs may open soon.”

What are your biggest fears regarding the future?
“The borders will open again on June 15, but the tourists we’re most dependent on come from Asia. We think that it’ll take a long time before these people can and want to visit us again. We hope the summer season will be okay, but also don’t want to get our hopes up. It’s likely there’ll be a second wave of infections, but please let it be after the summer!”

Photography Studio Experience Volendam:

What were your biggest fears when hearing about the governments’ measures?
We actually had no fears because we have a financial buffer. This meant that we knew that we could hold on for a while. But throughout the lockdown, we started worrying about the future: “Will people still dare to come after this?” 

How does it feel to be closed while some shops in the historical centre are still opened?
Almost everyone had to close with us, so we’re not alone. Shared grief, I would say. Because we have to dress people up to take their pictures, we had no other possibility than to close. Even if we were allowed to remain open, we would have had to deal with the public opinion in Volendam. This is quite a strong one, so staying open in that scenario would have led to criticism. And the shops that are still opened have a very quiet time right now. The people are staying home, so we don’t think it would’ve mattered for us if we were allowed to remain open.

What are your expectations for the future?
January and February were the busiest low-season months of all time for our business, so we expected our year to be amazing. However, things are looking different now. We expect it to get busy again gradually and that the initiatives we took this year will work out in the end: the reviews are good and our product is, too. We will survive this year.

How do you prepare for the future?
We’re opening again on June 1. We won’t be expecting any foreign tourists, but we’re mostly dependent on Dutch tourists anyways. Of course we have a protocol that meets the governments’ rules, but hopefully we can throw it in the bin in three months. I think the virus will disappear on its own.