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World's first tourist entry fee in Venice met with protests

Venice has become the first city in the world to implement a tourist payment to manage the overwhelming number of visitors crowding its iconic canals.

Venice has become the first city in the world to implement a tourist payment to manage the overwhelming number of visitors crowding its iconic canals.

Launched yesterday (25 April), the long-awaited scheme will see tourists charged five euros (around AU$8.20) on 29 days this year to enter Venice’s historic alleys, with signs placed at key entry points like the train station and footbridges to inform visitors.

According to Reuters, the city councillor overseeing Venetian tourism, Simone Venturini, believes the initiative will help strike a balance between the city’s residents and day-trippers. 

However, the introduction of the fee has sparked controversy among locals. While many residents want to curb tourism to the city, they don’t believe this is the way to do it.

Venice crowds

“We are against this measure because it will do nothing to stop over-tourism,” resident Cristina Romieri said. 

“Moreover, it is such a complex regulation with so many exceptions that it will also be difficult to enforce it.”

Residents’ unease with the new system was evident as hundreds took to the streets holding banners with slogans like “No to ticket for Vene-Land”.

Giovanni Andrea Martini, representing an opposition group in the Town Hall, expressed concerns that Venice is becoming more of a museum or theme park than a living city. 

Venice ban to come into effect this year
A tourist in Venice

Under the new system, tourists are required to make reservations online, but a booth is available for those without smartphones. 

There will be no physical barriers at the city’s entrances, but inspectors will conduct random checks and impose fines ranging from 50 to 300 euros on non-compliant visitors, Reuters reported.

Italian tourists, like Gabriella Pappada from Lecce, believe the new charge unfairly restricts budget travellers from experiencing the city. 

“I consider Venice to be the most beautiful city in the world and so to deprive a person on a low budget of the opportunity to come here for an hour or two to enjoy this city is surely a shame for these tourists,” they said.

Certain exemptions to the fee include hotel guests, visitors under 14, residents, students, and workers. 

Visitors dwarf residents

A cruise ship in Venice

Last year, approximately 20 million people visited Venice, compared to a resident population of 49,000, a city official said. Around half of those visitors stayed overnight in the city. 

Venice has taken several steps to manage tourism, including prohibiting large cruise ships from entering the lagoon and setting limits on tourist group sizes, the latter of which will see parties exploring the historic centre and islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello from 1 June 2024 capped at 25 people, half the capacity of a typical tourist coach. 

These efforts have been partly in response to concerns from UNESCO about the city’s fragile ecosystem being overwhelmed by mass tourism.

Last year, a whopping 311,760 Australians travelled to Italy, 19 per cent more than in 2019 and a new yearly travel record, ABS figures showed. Read more about this and Aussie travel trends to Italy.