Will The New Venice Tourist Tax Combat Overtourism?

Venice

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At the end of 2018 the Venice city council announced that it was planning to introduce a new entry fee, a tax on every tourist entering the city. This was intended partly as a response to overtourism, and partly as a way of bringing in much needed revenue. But what precisely is the problem, and how far will the Venice Tourist Tax address it?

The Rialto Bridge, a covered bridge with archways above a canal
The Rialto Bridge is a popular spot for tourists

The Problem Of Overtourism In Venice

Overtourism in Venice has led to several related problems. Approximately 25m tourists now arrive in the city each year. More than 50% of these visitors only stay for one day (about a million of these arrive on cruise ships). Many of them spend little or no money during their visit, leading to accusations that they are enjoying the city for free while not contributing to the costs of cleaning and upkeep.

Tourists and pigeons in St Mark's Square
Like many places in Venice, St Mark’s Square is “free” for tourists to visit

This puts a tremendous strain on Venice’s already fragile buildings and infrastructure. In July 2023 UNESCO recommended putting the city on its “heritage danger list”, suggesting that it was likely to suffer irreversible damage. The threat was lifted in September, but concerns remain.

Furthermore, local people complain that the city is losing its character, that its traditions and way of life are giving way to the needs of tourists. The permanent population is in decline, to the extent that the ratio of tourists to residents is now approximately 140:1!

Introducing The Venice Tourist Tax

The Venice Tourist Tax (also known as the “Venice Fee”) was set to be introduced in the summer of 2020, but was delayed by the pandemic. It is now due to start spring 2024, and will apply on specific days from 25 April to 5 May, and on weekends in May, June and July. Charges will apply between 8:30am to 4pm

The €5 charge will only be levied to visitors travelling to the lagoon region: small islands such as Burano and Murano are exempt. Also exempt will be tourists staying overnight in hotels, as they already pay a visitor tax. (For further details, and to pay the fee, visit https://cda.ve.it/en).

Canal and boats in Venice
Pinnable image – can the Venice Tourist Tax combat overtourism?

The Venice Fee is in addition to other measures. Visitors can already be fined for unauthorised or antisocial activities. These include littering, dragging wheeled suitcases through the historic area, and sketching in the street without a permit… And a ban on the largest cruise ships is expected in the near future.

Is The Venice Fee A Good Solution?

The modest amounts being charged are unlikely to deter many visitors. However they will go some way towards offsetting the expense of accommodating millions of tourists every day. Just as important, the Venice Tourist Tax will establish the principle that there is a cost to visiting the city, that it should be paid for like any other tourist attraction.

Canal and gondola, with gondolier and passengers
Gondolas are traditional transport in Venice, but today they are mostly used by tourists

However, there is another side to the question. A substantial part of Venice’s economy – and its jobs – derives from tourism. A drop in visitor numbers could result in a further fall in the city’s population. In fact, there are already signs that visitors are starting to avoid the city, put off both by crowds and by a feeling that they are unwelcome.

The Right Kind Of Tourist?

This leads us to the question, is there a right kind of tourist? It certainly seems that there is a wrong kind: the people who visit, take a few selfies in iconic locations, and leave again without having contributed to the local economy.

I’ve written elsewhere about how tourists can benefit from travelling differently, by engaging more deeply with the places they visit. Perhaps the answer is for Venice to have fewer tourists, who stay for longer. After all, it has lots of hotels and restaurants that deserve to be patronised…

About Bewitched by italy

Bewitched By Italy is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), but Italy remains one of my favourite destinations. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…

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