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Intelligent lockdown gives Dutch cities a headstart

About footfall

The Netherlands has opted for a much smoother lockdown than many other European countries. The Dutch were allowed to move freely and regular shops could  remain open[i]*. We investigated the effect of the intelligent lockdown on the footfall in the shopping streets by comparing the number of passers-by in seven cities: Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht versus Brussels, Paris, Barcelona and Madrid.

For this comparison, the footfall on the last ‘normal’ Saturday, March 7th, was taken as starting point. The footfall count of March 7th is set at 100 and the Saturdays in the graph below show the index compared to this date.

At first glance, the chosen type of lockdown does not seem to make much of a difference. Despite the fact that everyone was allowed to move around freely and that the shops were allowed to be open in the Netherlands, it was hardly any busier  than in the countries with more extreme lockdown rules.  From mid-April, however, the number of corona cases quickly decreased and the sentiment changed. In the Netherlands, a lot of people started going into town again. During this period there was a significantly big difference between the countries where the lockdown was still in force and the Netherlands.

On the 11h of May, shops were allowed to open again in Belgium and France, which increased their footfall during the last two weekends. That is where we see the biggest jump in the footfall.

In Spain, the measures are being loosened in phases per region. Madrid and Barcelona are among the hardest hit regions and that’s where the easing will take place last. In both cities, phase 1 of the lockdown relaxation just started on the 25th of May[ii]. It is therefore clear to see that in both Spanish cities, the footfall in the town centre on May 23rd lags behind the 5 other cities. Those five cities are back at about half of the pre corona numbers.

Nevertheless, we see that all these big cities are hit much harder than the smaller cities we track. Last Saturday, some of those smaller cities had a footfall count of 70% of the pre corona outbreak. These cities benefit from people staying closer to home.

We estimate that that the recovery of the big cities will take longer. After all, these 7 major cities will continue to suffer from a lack of national and international tourists for a long time to come. In addition, these cities can only be reached by public transport by a large part of their target group. We do not expect these two important factors to be resolved before the end of this year.


[i] Except for the hospitality industry and contact professions such as hairdressers etc.

[ii] Since May 25, people in Madrid and Barcelona are able to go out again almost without any restrictions, and small shops and bars and cafes will open again.

Gertjan Slob

Gertjan Slob is the Director of Research at Locatus. He is responsible for the entire data course. During his work, he is constantly analysing data, and frequently flags interesting trends and developments.