ROME — From January, Venice will require 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 of the historic center, obstructing narrow, busy streets. footbridges crossing the canals.
On Friday, Venice officials unveiled new rules for day trippers, which will come into effect on January 16, 2023.
Tourists who choose not to stay overnight in hotels or other accommodation will need to register online for the day they plan to come and pay a fee. These range from 3 to 10 euros ($3.15 to $10.50) per person, depending on booking in advance and if it’s high season or if the city is very busy.
Violators face fines of up to 300 euros ($315) if caught and unable to show proof that 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 pandemic, some 19 million day-trippers visited Venice and provided only a fraction of the income of those staying at least one night.
Venice’s tourism commissioner dismissed any suggestion that the measure would seek to limit the number of people from outside coming to Italy’s most visited city.
“We won’t talk about number thresholds. We’re talking about incentives and disincentives,” Simone Venturini told a news conference in Venice.
The reservation and fee approach had been discussed a few years ago, but was put on hold during the pandemic. COVID-19 travel restrictions have nearly wiped out tourism in Venice – and left Venetians to have their city virtually to themselves, for the first time in decades.
Mass tourism began in the mid-1960s. Visitor numbers continued to rise, while the number of Venetians living in the city steadily declined, overwhelmed by congestion, the high cost of food delivery and d car-free Venice and the frequent flooding that damages homes and businesses.
Since hotel and guesthouse guests already pay an accommodation tax, they are exempt from the reserve and royalty obligation.
With the new rule, Venice aims to “find that balance between (Venetian) residents and long-term and short-term visitors,” Venturini said, promising the new system “will be simple for visitors to manage.” He presented Venice as the first city in the world to set up such a system for day visitors.
The tourism official expressed hope that the fee and reservation requirement “will reduce friction between day visitors and residents”. In the peak tourism system, tourists can outnumber residents 2 to 1, in the city which is 5 square kilometers (2 square miles) in area.
The resident Venetian population in the historic city is just over 50,000, a small fraction of what it was a few generations ago.
Exceptions to excursion fees include children under 6, people with disabilities and owners of holiday apartments in Venice, provided they can show proof of paying property taxes.
Cruise ships contribute to the hordes of visitors that throng Venice’s maze of narrow streets, especially near St. Mark’s Square, when they disembark day-trippers for a few hours. These visitors will also have to pay, unless their cruise line pays a fixed fee in Venice.