It seems Venice is finally putting measures in place to curb overtourism, an issue that has been plaguing the city for years. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 25 to 30 million tourists would descend on La Serenissima per year, clogging its narrow streets, polluting the canals, and pushing locals out as historic apartments were given over to short-term rentals. Once the center of a wealthy and powerful maritime republic, Venice’s population has dwindled to around 50,000. The situation was so dire that the UNESCO World Heritage Committee considered putting the city on its list of endangered heritage sites.
Mayor Luigi Brugnaro first announced a plan to charge tourists a fee to visit the city in December 2018, but it was put on hold during the pandemic. Now it seems the city will begin requiring tourists to reserve a ticket in advance starting sometime this year, but the details are still being finalized, including how much tourists will be charged, how it will be enforced, and the exact date of implementation.
“We are working on perfecting a system of obligatory reservations for the city, to discourage day-tripping and encourage high-quality, experiential tourism,” Venice city council member Simone Venturini told AFAR. “Venice is paving the way on a global level for the development of an unprecedented system for offsetting the negative consequences of overtourism.”
Venturini confirmed that for tourists staying in hotels and other structures, Venice will be accessible without any limitations and that the city’s goal is to control the flow of visitors from a “smart control room” using artificial intelligence, which will also help regulate transportation and other services. No word on the (somewhat controversial) use of turnstiles.
A January 7 report from Euronews stated that the plan for 2022 is to only allow travelers to visit the city after they have booked a 5-euro (US$5.70) ticket online. The Italian newspaper Venezia Today this month reported that the tassa di sbarco (disembarkation tax) will range from €3 to €8 (US$3.50–$9) for day-trippers, but that tourists staying in the city’s hotels—where a city tax is already added onto the bill—will be exempt. The paper also reported that the city’s administration is discussing an app for bookings and turnstiles to enforce them. The Points Guy noted that there will be 500 CCTV cameras installed throughout the city, and police will use mobile phone data to monitor visitors.
“In my opinion, they haven’t figured out the parameters yet,” Fulvio De Bonis, cofounder of the luxury tour operator Imago Artis Travel, told AFAR. While he and many others in the tourism industry believe something must be done to save the city from overtourism, not everyone agrees about the approach.
Italy’s culture minister Dario Franceschini spoke out against entry tickets and turnstiles during the presentation of the new rooms of Venice’s Accademia Galleries last August, saying, “We must exploit less invasive technologies to control the flows, which are there, but if I think of turnstiles an airport comes to mind, not a city.”
Other critics of the plan believe that installing turnstiles at the entrances to Venice’s historic center will give visitors the impression that they’re entering an amusement park like Walt Disney World. De Bonis agrees that turnstiles are not the way to go. He suggests a system similar to Italy’s current green pass system instead: Anytime visitors enter a restaurant, museum, or other venue, they would have to show on an app that they have paid the city tax.
“We must preserve and protect the marvels of Venice, limiting the number of arrivals. We can’t allow the masses to continue to destroy the image of the lagoon,” De Bonis said.
He added, “Entering Venice is entering into a world of wonders that we as spectators all enjoy. If a fee must be one of the ways to protect Venice, I welcome it, but it can’t be the only solution—and obviously the money gained must be used for restoration and upkeep of the city.”
>> Next: Can Venice Prevent an Overtourism Replay Postpandemic?