Venice, the city of canals and romance, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. However, the influx of visitors has also brought problems such as overcrowding, pollution, and damage to the fragile lagoon ecosystem. To address these issues, Venice plans to experiment with an admission fee of 5 euros ($5.35) for day trippers next year.
The fee will be applied on a trial basis on 30 days next year, focusing mainly on spring bank holidays and summer weekends when tourism numbers are at their peak. All visitors over the age of 14 will have to pay it. The aim is 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 councilor Simon Venturini said. It is not a money-making move, he added, saying the fee would only cover the cost of administering the scheme.
The exact dates of the plan and how it will be run will be agreed after final council approval, which is expected next week. The plan, first mooted in 2019, was initially postponed because of COVID-19, which kept tourists away, and later for technical and procedural reasons. Visitors have meanwhile poured back into Venice, with outsiders often vastly outnumbering the roughly 50,000 residents of the city center, overwhelming its narrow alleys.
Over-tourism has long been a problem for the fragile lagoon city. In July, UNESCO recommended that Venice and its lagoon to 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.
Roughly 80 percent of all tourists who come to Venice do so for just for the day. In 2019, the last full year of tourism before the COVID-19 pandemic, about 19 million day trippers visited Venice and provided just a fraction of the revenue of those who stayed for at least one night. With just a few hours to spend in Venice, day trippers tend to flock to St. Mark's Square and other tourist musts, adding to pedestrian traffic that makes walking down the city's narrow streets or over some of its bridges a slow slog.
The fee strategy was discussed a few years ago but was put on hold during the coronavirus pandemic. Travel restrictions during much of the outbreak saw tourism in Venice nearly vanish - and let Venetians have their city practically to themselves for the first time in decades. In 2002, an advance sign-up plan for day trippers was envisioned in addition to the fee.
Those exempted from the fee include people who commute to work in Venice or on the smaller islands, students, residents of the Veneto region, which includes the city, and those who pay taxes on local property. The fee will be applied to day trippers over the age of 14.
The city hopes that by charging an entry fee, it can reduce the number of day trippers and encourage more sustainable tourism that respects the environment and culture of Venice. The fee could also help fund projects to preserve and restore the city's heritage and infrastructure.
Venice is not the first city to introduce such a measure. Other popular destinations such as Amsterdam, Barcelona, Dubrovnik, and Paris have also implemented various forms of tourist taxes or limits to cope with overtourism.