Have you ever imagined paying a €10 ticket to visit a city?
It is Venice’s plan to charge a €10 tourist fee for daily visitors as a way to combat the impacts of excessive tourism, becoming a pioneering and controversial initiative by a city that is now debating the future of tourism and travel.
The Italian city of Venice is known for its canals, gondolas, architecture and art, as well as being host to the famous Venice Film Festival. The UNESCO World Heritage Site, Venice is an extremely popular destination that receives millions of tourists from all over the globe annually, which makes the travel and tourism industry of paramount importance to the local economy.
So why create a tourist tax if they are a vital part of the local economy?
With the low demand of tourists due to the pandemic, the canals of Venice started to breathe
There is a larger and very interesting context of what happened in Venice in recent years, and triggered the creation of this measure.
The COVID pandemic affected tourism, we all know. But what many travelers don’t know is how much cities’ infrastructures are impacted by tourism.
In Venice, what happened between 2020 and 2021 was astounding: when the traffic became much lower than usual, the canals started to become cleaner, with clearer and less polluted waters — because, obviously, the means of locomotion for people are walking, biking and gondolas.
The first city to charge a fee for tourists
Venice has been discussing ways to control, rethink and distribute tourism for many years due to the “over tourism” situation it faces. Today, with 50,000 residents, but thousands of tourists visiting the city daily — during the 2022’s Easter holiday there were 125,000 daily visitors —, the choice was to apply a fee for one-day visitors, with exceptions for people who stay overnight, visit relatives, among other reasons.
“Manage tourist flows” was Venice’s goal with this initiative. Putting itself as a protagonist, Venice is innovating on managing tourist flows and working towards more sustainable travel and tourism, with the clear message: the exploitation of the city is not an option anymore. Even though there is a desire to increase tourism and move the tourism sector forward, how to make it more sustainable is an urgent agenda across the whole industry — after all, in 2019 Venice generated tourism revenue of 1.5 billion euros ($1.8 billion) being with 30% from day trippers.
How overtourism impacts cities and destinations
This makes us think of Venice, but also of Paris, Barcelona, New York, among so many other cities in the world that deal with the normality of intense tourism in their daily lives.
Although over tourism can cause damages, there are ways of being optimistic towards the future while making tourism better. The conclusion here is: we can take lemons and turn them into lemonade.
Venice is taking a position to create a more sustainable tourism ecosystem, inspiring other cities to follow its example. Charging a tourist fee can be a first step towards educating and making the public aware of the topic, and paving the way for a new way of traveling.
Looking towards the future, the travel industry may address it by offering longer experiences in the city with customized itineraries, engaging local restaurants and cafes, hotels and accommodations with discounts for long stays, tax incentives for establishments, transport, and tourists themselves.