In Search of Solutions: Addressing Over-Tourism Challenges in Venice

news 02-Jul-2023 Europe

In Search of a Recipe to Tackle Over-Tourism Subtitle

Venice's Struggle to Cope with an Influx of Tourists

Venice thrives on its many visitors while simultaneously suffering from their presence. The city administration is searching for a recipe to combat over-tourism. However, their plans are controversial, and implementation is not guaranteed.

Venice is enchanting, but it comes at a high cost. This becomes particularly evident on sticky summer days when hordes of tourists fill the streets. Many Venetians groan under the weight of "too much" tourism, known as overtourism. Yet, finding a simple solution to this problem seems elusive.

The Venetian city administration has attempted to address the issue by introducing an admission fee to reduce the number of visitors. However, this decision was never implemented. The historic center of Venice is meant to remain a public space, not become an open-air museum. But hasn't the "Serenissima" already become one?

Seeking Solace in Quieter Neighborhoods

In the quieter districts of Venice, one can find tranquil alleyways and squares. If not for the sound of rolling suitcases, it might be possible to believe that the enchanted Venice still exists in these "sestieri."

However, a glance at the doorbells reveals the truth: most closed shutters conceal vacation rentals. The rental market is booming, at least for tourists. For many locals seeking long-term rentals, Venice is simply too expensive.

After completing their university studies, most young people move to the mainland. The availability of more affordable housing is just one reason. There are also more diverse job opportunities, and it's convenient to reach supermarkets by car.

Venice's historic center is a pedestrian zone, CO2-friendly, and free from traffic jams. But it lacks sufficient playgrounds and is not practical for everyday life when navigating with a stroller.

Hotels Quickly Fully Booked

The problem is not new and has worsened year after year. The historic center still has approximately 50,000 residents, with roughly the same number of hotel beds available. During the summer months and festival seasons, these accommodations quickly fill up. Activists like Giovanni Leone argue that the supply needs to be reduced. However, the city remains hesitant.

Defining "overtourism" is not straightforward. The threshold for locals considering it "too much" is an emotional question. The evaluation of the burden also depends on how much residents benefit from tourism.

Activist Leone claims that Venetians have not been benefiting from tourism revenues for some time, with insufficient reinvestment in the historic center.

Ideas from the City Administration

The city administration acknowledges the issue but acknowledges the absence of a simple solution. One idea is to specifically attract young families back to the historic center and subsidize rents.

The administration also aims to attract non-tourism-related businesses to the historic center. Over the past two years, the alleyways have been under increased video surveillance, and tourist flows have been redirected to alleviate congestion.

Furthermore, the city is planning a major regulatory measure: in the future, visitors wishing to access central squares in Venice as day-trippers will need to reserve a digital time slot in advance, similar to the system used in US national parks. The timeline for implementing this system remains unclear, as the city administration is currently planning a testing phase.

Is the Problem Simply Being Shifted?

Is Venice gradually becoming an enormous open-air museum? Activist Leone fears that if a reservation requirement is implemented, people may no longer crowd the St. Mark's Square, but they will flock to other locations, thereby encroaching upon the few remaining tranquil corners.

The willingness of the Venetian population to collectively endure the negative aspects of mass tourism seems to be diminishing.

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