Starting in January, Venice is to oblige day-trippers to make reservations and pay a fee to visit the historic lagoon city, in a bid to better manage visitors who often far outnumber residents in the historic center, clogging narrow streets and heavily-used foot bridges crossing the canals.
Venice officials on Friday unveiled new rules for day-trippers, which go into effect on Jan. 16.
Tourists who choose not to stay overnight in hotels or other lodgings would have to sign up online for the day they plan to come and pay a fee. These range from 3 to 10 euros (US$3.13 to US$10.43) per person, depending on advance booking and whether it is peak season, or the city is very crowded.
Transgressors risk fines as high as 300 euros if stopped and unable to show proof they booked and paid with a QR code.
About four-fifths of all tourists come to Venice 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 from those staying for at least one night.
Venice’s tourism commissioner brushed off any suggestion that the measure would seek to limit the number of out-of-towners coming to Italy’s most-visited city.
“We won’t talk about number cutoffs. We’re talking about incentives and disincentives,” Venice Deputy Mayor for Social Welfare, Tourism, Health and Economic Development Simone Venturini told a news conference in the city.
The reservation-and-fee approach had been discussed a few years ago, but was put on hold during the pandemic. Tourism in Venice nearly vanished amid COVID-19 travel restrictions — leaving Venetians with their city practically to themselves, for the first time in decades.
Mass tourism began in the mid-1960s. Visitor numbers kept climbing, while the number of Venetians living in the city steadily dwindled, overwhelmed by congestion, the high cost of delivering food and other goods in car-less Venice, and frequent flooding that damages homes and businesses.
Since guests at hotels and pensions already pay a lodging tax, they are exempt from the reserve-and-fee obligation.
With the new rule, Venice aims to “find this balance between [Venetian] resident and long-term and short-term” visitors, Venturini said, promising that the new system “will be simple for visitors” to manage.
He billed Venice as the first city in the world putting such a system for day-only visitors in place.
He also expressed hope that the fee-and-reservation obligation will “reduce frictions between day visitors and residents.”
During peak tourism, visitors can outnumber residents two-to-one, in the city that measures 5km2 in area.
Venice’s resident population in the historic city numbers just more than 50,000, a small fraction of what it was a couple of generations ago.
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