Legal cannabis consumption rose in the US and Europe during the Covid-19 pandemic, with some people turning to marijuana to help them cope with lockdowns and broken routines. Meanwhile, fewer people today view the drug as harmful compared with previous decades.
These factors may have contributed to a trend towards cannabis-related tourism, with destinations developing new holiday products to tempt customers and rising travel bookings to destinations where cannabis is legal. But there are risks for destinations and tourists in embracing this trend.
Work by the US’s MMGY Travel Intelligence found 29% of leisure travellers are interested in cannabis-related tourism. A study by the Dutch government revealed that 58% of international tourists choose Amsterdam to consume drugs. And business in Dutch coffee shops has increased since the start of the pandemic.
Nine months after Illinois legalised recreational cannabis in January 2020, nearly 30% of purchases were by non-residents. Thailand has just announced it has legalised cannabis and is hoping this will boost tourism.
The tourism sector and specific destinations have reacted quickly to the demand for cannabis, hemp and CBD-related products by designing experiences that include those elements. They are also responding to the expected economic potential related to increased hotel occupancy, tax revenues, increased land values, business expansion, jobs and public health and safety benefits that could be connected to cannabis sales.
Yet though tourism to destinations with legalised cannabis is growing in popularity, data is only beginning to be collected. And so far no destination is ready to be labelled as the “next Amsterdam”.
While cannabis-related travellers are believed to be high spending and well educated, authorities don’t want to replicate the Dutch model, which led to massive concentration of cannabis coffee shops in Amsterdam and raised concerns over hard drug use and criminality.