In the Netherlands, the amusement park Efteling is trying to thwart controversies

At 11 am, on this beautiful summer day, large car parks like those at the two airports surrounding Efteling fill up. The crowd is already heading towards the gigantic entrance hall, a wooden metropolis dotted with four slender turrets and topped with a thatched roof, where a smiling crew, clad in blue uniforms, ties or orange scarves, awaits. We are in the Netherlands, where Orange-Nassau reigns supreme.

This troupe greets the visitor in all languages ​​and directs him to this very beautiful amusement park where the audience rediscovered the spirit of its childhood long ago and came without questions to the poetry of the tales: Snow whiteAnd sleeping PrincessAnd Hansel and Gretel, etc. In the original version, they are not vetted by contemporary issues and fight the stereotypes they are sometimes accused of transmitting.

“Fairy” and ‘Enchanting’ are the two most common qualifiers to describe this 65-hectare property, which opened in 1952. For the majority of visitors encountered in this region of southern Holland, between Breda and Tilburg, the best way to get to know it is with its lakes, its canals where exotic fish swim, its five ‘kingdoms’, its rides past and its delightful little museum.

Don’t lose visitors

Efteling is a world of princesses in pink dresses, folk songs, Arabic architecture, pagodas, peaceful sailing gondoliers and shell-shaped carousels. Even the black eyes of the legendary and gigantic bird of prey, “strong as a hundred lions”And Bobbing over Fogle Rock (“Bird Rock”), a tourist attraction in the dark, doesn’t seem to scare anyone.

Questions about the evolution of Dutch world and society, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement or the controversy over Zwarte Piet, the black servant of St. Nicholas, crossed the field gates a few years ago. and train “adjustment”Related to the image that the park management wants to present as much as it is related to the need not to lose visitors.

Also read the column: Saint Nicholas in Holland or Santa Claus racist?

Efteling, originally a sports complex and recreation area, is actually first and foremost a thriving business. With 5.4 million annual visitors (80% Dutch, 20% foreigners) and its 3,000 employees, it has gone from a patriarchal, Christian-inspired project to the status of a highly profitable company: 266 million in turnover in 2022, a net profit of €34 million for its sole shareholder, the Efteling Nature Park Foundation.

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