Venice plans to experiment with a €5 (roughly $5.35) entrance fee for day-trippers next year in a bid to regulate the flow of tourists lured to its historic canals, the city council said on Tuesday.
The fee will be levied for 30 days on a trial basis next year, with a primary focus on spring break and summer weekends when tourism numbers are at their peak.
The aim was to find “a new balance between the rights of those who live, study or work in Venice and those who visit the city,” Venice tourism councillor Simone Venturini said. It’s not a money-making move, he added, saying the fee would only cover the cost of administering the system.
“Regulating tourist flows in certain periods is necessary, but that does not mean closing the city,” said mayor Luigi Brugnaro. “Venice will always be open to everyone.”
Who does not have to pay?
The exact dates and many details of the long-discussed plan will be agreed after final council approval, which is expected next week. However, local residents, commuters, students and children under the age of 14, as well as tourists staying overnight in the city are known to be exempt from the rule.
“The objective is to discourage daily tourism in certain periods, in line with the fragility and uniqueness of the city,” the local authority said in a statement. Residents of the wider Veneto region will likely not have to pay, but still book their visit, it said.
About four fifths of all tourists come to Venice for just one day. In 2019, the last full year of tourism before the COVID-19 pandemic, about 19 million day-trippers visited Venice, generating only a fraction of the revenue of those who stayed at least one night.
Since they can only spend a few hours in Venice, day-trippers tend to flock to St. Mark’s Square and other attractions, adding to pedestrian traffic that makes walking down the city’s narrow streets or over some of its bridges a slow slog.
Venice in danger
Overtourism has long been a problem for the fragile lagoon city. The admission fee plan, first mooted in 2019, was initially postponed because of COVID-19, which kept tourists away, and later for technical and procedural reasons.
In July, UNESCO experts recommended that Venice and its lagoon be added to its list of World Heritage in Danger, claiming that Italy was not doing enough to protect the city from the impact of climate change and mass tourism.
In 2021, the city limited access to the Venice Lagoon for the largest cruise ships.
Mass tourism to Venice began in the mid-1960s and visitor numbers continued to rise. Meanwhile, the number of Venetians living in the city has steadily declined due to congestion, high costs of delivering groceries and other goods in the car-free city, and frequent flooding.
Around 110,000 people lived in the historic heart of Venice in 1970. By last year, that number had dropped to just under 50,000.
dh/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)