VENICE, Italy - Venice authorities on Thursday unveiled a pilot program to charge day-trippers 5 euros ($5.45) apiece to enter the fragile lagoon city on peak weekends next year in an effort to reduce crowds, encourage longer visits and improve the quality of life for residents.
The rollout of the tourist "contribution" program came after Venice, a UNESCO World Heritage site, narrowly escaped being placed on the U.N. agency's danger list earlier this year because of the threat that overtourism was 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 stressed Thursday that the fee is not a new tourist tax or an attempt to bring in extra revenue. Rather, he said, it is a first-of-its-kind experiment in regulating tourist flows in one of the world’s most-visited places by incentivizing visitors to avoid high-traffic periods and come on other days.
"Our attempt is to make a more livable city," he said at a news conference outlining the pilot program.
Tourists crowd the area near the Rialto Bridge on August 02, 2023 in Venice, Italy. (Photo by Stefano Mazzola/Getty Images)
In all, 29 days from April to mid-July -– including most weekends --- will be subject to the day-tripper fee during peak hours from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m., meaning visitors who come into Venice for dinner or a concert won’t have to pay.
A host of 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 Jan. 16, a website, www.cda.ve.it, will go live at which visitors can "reserve" their day in Venice. Day trippers pay 5 euros and get a QR code that 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.
Gondoliers proceed slowly near the Sospiri Bridge near St. Mark's Square due to too much traffic on August 02, 2023 in Venice, Italy. (Photo by Stefano Mazzola/Getty Images)
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 incentivize its residents to stay put.
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. 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 program 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.