It is hard to imagine why a touristic destination would want to limit the number of visitors, but for the city of Venice, overtourism has indeed become a nuisance. There are only 50,000 residents in the canal city, but on an average peak season day, over 80,000 tourists could easily swarm the streets.
Venice was almost declared an endangered world heritage site by UNESCO, which determined the city officials to take faster action in regulating the income of visitors. The first change was the ban of cruise ships into the city. This summer, tourists who want to see the city without spending the night will have the option to book their visit in advance. Starting January, they will have to pay between 3 and 10 euros, depending on the day. The measure is solely targeting day-trippers, overnight guests who stay in local hotels, children under 6, as well as residents and their relatives are exempt from the fee.
We will be the first in the world to conduct this difficult experiment.Mayor Luigi Brugnaro on Twitter
The proposition to monitor day-trippers was being discussed before the pandemic, but has been postponed because of the lockdowns. With the re-opening of the city, the problem is once again pressing and Mayor Luigi Brugnaro announced after Easter that the first step, a reservation system, is on track to be implemented this year.
During the Easter weekend, 120,000 visitors came to the city on Saturday and 158,000 on Sunday. This, the Mayor said, showed once again that implementing a booking system for day trips is the right thing to do “for a more balanced management of tourism”.
Simone Venturini, the councillor responsible for tourism, told RAI, the state TV network, that a “very simple and quick” portal for booking trips in advance will be ready in just a few weeks. He also highlighted that the pandemic made residents realise how much better life is without so many tourists: “Covid made us realize that what was an everyday occurrence before covid isn’t acceptable anymore, the mentality has changed, as has the sensitivity [towards crowds]”.
He explained that the booking system will be optional this year, as a trial, with incentives like queue jumping benefits for various attractions. It will be useful to monitor the income of visitors and allow authorities to prepare accordingly based on the estimated number of visitors on a certain day. But it will also be used kindly deter them on known holidays to avoid overcrowding the city, for example “We can say, ‘Dear visitor, we don’t advise coming on this date because it’s Ferragosto or Easter. There will be a lot of people so it will hinder you from having a peaceful visit, and if you make it a week later you can enjoy your visit more”.
The message we want to give is that Venice is a city that lives slowly, at different rhythms to anywhere else. It’s fragile, unique and needs an approach on the part of visitors that isn’t ‘go in, take a photo, and leave’.Simone Venturini, Venice tourism councillor, for RAI
The councillor also believes that while Venice will be the first city in the world to implement a day trip fee, it will certainly not be the last. “I think many other European cites who live with significant numbers of day-trippers are watching us” to see how the scheme works, what the outcome will be and how they could implement something similar themselves.