How do people feel about it?
Announcement of the entrance fee has sparked various reactions. A year ago, 1,000 citizens gathered around the city to protest the announcement of the entrance fee. Last week, the announcement of the entrance fee trial was met with heated protests during a city council meeting.
Anna Scovaricchi, a traditional bookbinding artisan who relocated her family of four to nearby Padua because she could no longer afford her rent, says the entrance fee “is a joke”. “People will surely pay €5 to come to Venice,” she said. “The real problem is the lack of housing and the fact that the city has turned into a huge bed and breakfast.”
Venice Day Trips, a tour operator offering cultural itineraries in Venice and the nearby region, thinks that an entry fee is not the right way to manage overtourism. “What we would like to see is a closed number [of tourists] with a clear booking process,” said founder Rachel Erdman, adding that they usually advise clients against coming to Venice during peak season like summer months. “What we don’t really agree with is a tax to enter the city.”
However, trade associations seem hopeful about the entrance fee. As reported by Italian newspaper La Repubblica, the trade association of local artisans said that the entrance fee mechanisms will “probably need to be improved” but it is a good start to managing overtourism.
What are the authorities saying?
Venice’s municipal authorities have responded to criticism by saying that for now the entry fee scheme is in its experimental phase. “We want to test this out,” Venturini said. “We want to see if charging €5 can convince some people to choose off-peak days to come to Venice.”
Do other cities have an entrance fee?
Tourism taxes are not a novelty. According to Megan Epler Wood, managing director at the Sustainable Tourism Asset Management Program (STAMP) at Cornell University, other destinations have introduced taxes as a means to manage overtourism. For example, in 2016 the Balearic Islands introduced an “eco tax” to finance the preservation of the archipelago’s environmental and cultural assets; while Belize has been charging visitors since the 1990s to finance the preservation of its coral reef and a wide range of biodiversity assets. Other destinations that charge tourists include Bali, Barcelona, France, Austria, Croatia, Costa Rica, New Zealand and most recently Iceland.
However, no country has ever created an entry fee like Venice. Most destinations include a tourist tax as part of accommodation bills or as a cost tacked to a plane ticket or tourist visa. This will be the first time that day trippers need to pay to enter a city.
The final goal of the tax is also different. In the case of the Balearic Islands or Belize, taxes are specifically collected to finance sustainable tourism projects. Instead, the Venice entry fee is not going to a specific fund. Instead, Venturini noted that the money collected from visitors will only be used to cover the cost of the booking system.