Venice is in danger. And to protect it, the authorities have decided to implement a brand new tax. It will be imposed on tourists who come to spend a single day in the City of the Doges and will amount to five euros. This measure will be in force from 2024. As a reminder, Venice was placed this month on UNESCO's list of world heritage in danger. The main objective of this measure, voted on Tuesday by the Venice city council, is to deter day visitors contributing to congesting the city famous throughout the world for its works of art, its bridges and its canals.
In 2024, this tax payable online will only concern a maximum of 30 days during which the number of tourists is traditionally higher, particularly weekends with bridges in spring and during the summer period. The calendar for the days concerned will be published later. Those under 14 and tourists spending at least one night on site will be exempt from this tax.
“It’s a first step (...) We are doing an experiment,” said right-wing mayor Luigi Brugnaro, promising that the “system will be easy to use.”
“The continued development (of Venice), the impacts of climate change and mass tourism threaten to cause irreversible changes to the exceptional universal value of the property,” criticized Unesco.
Rising sea levels and other “extreme weather phenomena” linked to global warming “threaten the integrity” of the site, UNESCO also warned.
UNESCO's opinion is for the moment indicative: for Venice to actually be included on the list of heritage in danger, the approval of the Member States present at a meeting of the World Heritage Committee currently being held in Riyadh is required.
The timing of the vote on this tax could not be more opportune for Venice, which has been postponing for years the taking of drastic measures, in particular the establishment of compulsory reservations and the quota on the number of entries into the city to stem the surge of millions of tourists in the saturated historic center.
The municipal opposition did not fail to highlight the sudden “haste” surrounding this measure in order to “show UNESCO that we are doing something”. “A tax of five euros will not prevent anyone from coming to Venice,” judged councilor Gianfranco Bettin.
UNESCO had also stigmatized “the absence of a global common strategic vision” and the “low efficiency and coordination” of Italian local and national authorities. “This registration will lead to greater commitment and mobilization of local, national and international stakeholders,” she hoped.
La Serenissima is one of the most visited cities in the world. At peak attendance, 100,000 tourists sleep there, in addition to tens of thousands of daily visitors. Compare to the approximately 50,000 inhabitants of the city center, which continues to depopulate.
“We are still in too much mass tourism, and not sustainable tourism, to the detriment of the population. Venice must not be transformed into an open-air museum,” a UNESCO diplomat explained to AFP in July.
In addition to mass tourism, Venice and its lagoon suffer from high tides which regularly flood St. Mark's Square and weaken the foundations of its buildings.