Rush of visitors to the lagoon city: Venice rethinks mass tourism

At Easter, Venice finally left the pandemic behind: On Good Friday, the “Serenissima”, the “Heitere”, counted 110,000 visitors, according to the city authorities, on Easter Saturday there were 160,000, on Sunday 140,000 and on Easter Monday there were still almost 100,000. “Tourism in Venice has started again,” Mayor Luigi Brugnaro happily tweeted afterwards.

In fact, even before the pandemic, the city only attracted so many tourists in exceptional cases. Of course, the hoteliers and restaurant owners were also happy. “Thanks to the Easter sales, we can start paying off our debts that we accumulated during the pandemic,” said Claudio Scarpa, director of the Venetian Hoteliers Association.

Venice, which is very dependent on foreign guests – 60 percent of them come from overseas – was hit harder than average by the pandemic: the drop in sales was 80 percent, and many businesses had to give up. And those who survived had to take out loans. This is also the reason why the city authorities have postponed their 2019 decision to curb the massive mass tourism in the lagoon city, the notorious entrance fee, by another year to 2023. To give the establishments time to “recover from the pandemic”, as pointed out by the Municipal Minister for Tourism, Simone Venturini.

After that, however, the tourist crowds should be contained at least a little. It would also be urgently needed: before the pandemic, the lagoon city on the Adriatic Sea, with its canals and countless cultural assets, had been the scene of a veritable mass rush for years: in the last year before the pandemic, 33 million tourists visited the city, i.e. an average of 90,000 a day.

That is almost twice as many as Venice has inhabitants: Just over 50,000 people live in the city. Many of the guests are day tourists, who also pour into the city from the cruise ships. Those who do not stay overnight in Venice will probably have to pay between 3 and 5 euros for admission from next year, depending on the season.

tax on the tickets

The tax is to be added to the tickets for the means of transport that take tourists to Venice. At least that was the plan when the city council decided on the “ticket” three years ago. It remains to be seen whether the tax will actually come next year: Hoteliers, the hospitality industry and other sectors that live from tourists are a strong lobby in Venice – and they are anything but enthusiastic.

Mayor Brugnaro, on the other hand, is an entrepreneur himself and has always had an open ear for the concerns of tradespeople. In any case, critics describe the entrance fee as a pure alibi measure by the city authorities so that they don’t have to introduce really effective measures.

Most Venetians don’t believe that the tax will reduce the number of guests: “Do you really think that tourists who let street vendors sell them a junk souvenir made in China for 20 euros or an Aperol Spritz in Piazza San Marco shell out 25 euros, be deterred by a one-off charge of 3 euros?” asked a pensioner on Italian television recently who has lived in the historic old town of Venice since he was born and who is kept from sleeping at night by the constant rattling of suitcases on wheels .

His question seems justified: There has been an “entrance fee” for day tourists on Ischia and Capri for many years – the braking effect on the number of tourists is below the level of perception in both cases.

Hoteliers and the city authorities do not want a cap on tourists

The introduction of a daily upper limit, a numerus clausus, for the number of tourists arriving would be much more effective. But the hoteliers and the city authorities don’t want to hear about that. Instead, a reservation obligation is to be tried out this year. It will probably be introduced on June 1st. The city intends to announce in the coming weeks exactly how the free online reservation will work, explained Venturini.

Venice recently introduced what the city authorities say is a “revolutionary” measure to record tourist flows. With the help of cameras, sensors and mobile phone location, Venice has been able to identify all tourists, but also local residents, in a central “smart control room” for several months.

Like the announced obligation to reserve, this “Big Brother” naturally has no impact on the number of guests. But still: On the night of Easter Saturday, the Smart Control Room registered 160,000 mobile phones that did not belong to local residents. However, only around 140,000 overnight stays were reported to the tax authorities. Since the 20,000 surplus mobile phone owners will hardly have slept outdoors, the suspicion arises that a large number of them have found accommodation black, i.e. tax-free. “We will check the data and carry out checks where the cell phones were logged on overnight,” said the Guardia di Finanza, the Italian tax police.

By Editor

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