Visitors to Venice have been warned to brace themselves for a daily charge to visit the floating city at busy times, set to be introduced next year.
The move, which will see day-trippers charged £4.35 (€5) at busy weekends, is part of a drive to reduce crowds, encourage longer visits and improve the quality of life for Venetians themselves.
The rollout of the tourist “contribution” programme came after Venice, a Unesco World Heritage site, narrowly escaped being placed on the UN agency’s danger list earlier this year because of the threat which over-tourism is having on its delicate ecosystem.
Member states cited the proposed new entry fee in deciding to spare Venice from the list.
Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro insisted the fee was not a new tourist tax or an attempt to bring in extra revenue.
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Instead, he said, it was a first-of-its-kind experiment in regulating tourist flows in one of the world’s most-visited places by encouraging visitors to avoid high-traffic periods and come on other days.
He told reporters during a news conference during which he outlined the plan.
He said: “Our attempt is to make a more liveable city.”
In all, 29 days from April to mid-July – including most weekends – will be subject to the fee between the hours of 8.30am and 4pm, meaning visitors who come into Venice for dinner or a concert will not be charged.
After COVID-19 lockdowns devastated Venice’s tourism industry, the city of narrow alleyways, canals and islands has been trying to rethink its relationship with visitors in a more sustainable way while also seeking to incentivise its residents to stay put.
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Venice has been forced to take action in response to the steady exodus of Venetians to the mainland and pressure from Unesco and environmentalists, who also lobbied successfully to have the government ban big cruise ships from sailing past St Mark’s Square and through the Giudecca canal.
Venice has been pointing to longer-term tourists as key to its survival since they tend to spend more.
Mr Brugnaro said in no way does the new day-tripper contribution discourage tourism overall, but just seeks to manage it better.
He acknowledged the visitor scheme will probably have glitches and will need to be amended. But he said that after years of study and talk, it was time to roll it out.
Numerous exemptions apply, including for residents and Venetian-born visitors, students and workers, as well as tourists who have hotel or other lodging reservations.
Starting on January 16, a website, Contributo di Accesso, will go live at which visitors can “reserve” their day in Venice.
Day trippers will pay the charge and get a QR code which will then be checked at spot controls at seven access points around the city, including at the main train station.
Visitors with hotel reservations enter their hotel information and also get a QR code to show, without having to pay, since their hotel bill will already include a Venice lodging fee.
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