The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has recommended that Venice, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy, be added to its heritage danger list. Too many tourists, plus the effects of global warming, were among the reasons for the recommendation. “Continued development (of Venice), the impacts of climate change and mass tourism threaten to cause irreversible changes to the outstanding universal value of the property,” notes the World Heritage Center, a branch of UNESCO. According to the organization, Italy has taken insufficient measures to combat the deterioration of the site.
Sea-level rise and other “extreme meteorological phenomena” linked to global warming “threaten the integrity” of the site, UNESCO informed. According to Agency-France Presse (AFP), the mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, made it clear that dialogue with UNESCO was a matter for the government, not the municipality.
For Venice to be added to the list of heritage in danger, it will need the endorsement of the member states present at a meeting of the World Heritage Committee to be held from September 10 to 25 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The resolution of these “long-standing but urgent” problems is “hampered by the absence of an overall common strategic vision” and the “poor efficiency and coordination” of Italy’s local and national authorities, points out the World Heritage Centre, which considers that the city is facing “a proven danger”. It hopes that “this inscription will lead to greater commitment and mobilization on the part of local, national and international players”.
Venice, an island city founded in the 5th century that became a major maritime power in the 10th century, extends over 118 islets, according to UNESCO. It is also one of the most visited cities in the world. At its peak, 100,000 tourists sleep here, in addition to tens of thousands of daily visitors. This compares with a population of some 50,000 in the city center, which is steadily shrinking. Venice was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1987.
Curbing mass tourism
In early 2022, the Italian government announced that it would attempt to discourage day-trippers in an effort to reduce the total number of tourists. Venice’s famous canals, for instance, have become incredibly polluted due to mass tourism and the corresponding increase in boat traffic.
Data from 2022 showed that around 100,000 tourists were able to visit the City of Canals every day. With the new limitations, all tourists will be required to pay a fee to stroll around Venice. Soon, the city will charge €5 to travelers and the tickets will be valid for one day only.
“The aim is to discourage one-day tourism, hit-and-run tourism, arriving in one day and leaving in the same day, tiring and stressing the city, and encouraging slower tourism instead,” explained Simone Venturini, the city’s deputy mayor for tourism. He said the new gates that will close the main access to historic centers have already arrived.