A Toll of Preservation

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Venice will impose an entrance fee on daytime visitors from next spring, a controversial first-of-its-kind effort to tackle overcrowding and make tourism more sustainable in the picturesque Italian city, Euronews reported.

Non-Venetians will have to pay $5.50 to receive a QR code granting access to the old town between 8:30 am and 4 pm, starting in April 2024. This means that tourists staying overnight, already paying a tourism tax as part of their accommodation reservation, are exempt from the fee.

Venice is the first city in the world to introduce such a measure.

The new tax, already long in the making, was postponed due to Covid-19. Its triggering came after UNESCO threatened to include Venice in its list of World Heritage Sites at risk because damage caused by over-tourism was not being addressed adequately. The idea of an entrance fee convinced the organization not to pursue its plan.

Of 30 million people visiting the 50,000-resident floating city yearly, 20 million only stay for the day. While they contribute the least to the local economy, they bring the most damage to infrastructure, the BBC explained.

Often in large groups going on guided tours, they crowd narrow streets and landmarks and put pressure on millennium-old bridges. By traveling by boat on the canals, they create waves that contribute to the erosion of ancient buildings.

The entrance fee plan caused controversy from the moment it was advertised. Locals feel that it fails to address the city’s problems. Venice is going through an exodus of its residents, who cannot afford to rent there anymore because “the city has turned into a huge bed and breakfast,” an ex-Venetian told the BBC.

Some Venetians suggested implementing a maximum daily number of tourists, a solution that sites such as Machu Pichu in Peru have already adopted. But the city council rejected the proposal, saying it would breach the right to free movement enshrined in the Italian constitution.

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