Venice introduces radical measures to crack down on tourist numbers

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
Venice introduces radical measures to crack down on tourist numbers
Tourists on gondolas on one of the city's canals. Photo: QuasarphotosDeposit Photos

Venice's city council on Thursday passed a set of measures aimed at reducing tourist numbers in the northern city's most popular areas.


The measures were put forward by mayor Luigi Brugnaro and tourism councillor Paola Mar, who last year told The Local that problems caused by tourists, ranging from overcrowding to vandalism, "get worse every year".

Brugnaro has long made it a priority to crack down on the tourism industry, and said on Thursday that the plan was a "much awaited measure which gives concrete answers to the issue of managing tourist flows, and making them compatible with the everyday lives of residents".

Many of the regulations will come into force immediately on a trial basis, "to address the critical issues of the coming summer months", Brugnaro said. 

One of the most significant innovations is the planned installation of people-counters at high-traffic areas. These will monitor the number of visitors to the city's most popular sites, including the Ponte degli Scalzi, the Ponte di Calatrava, and the three bridges crossing the Rio Novo.

While there will be no specific cap on visitor numbers, the figures will be shared in real time through the city's website and social media in an effort to avoid overcrowding.

The city also plans to promote lesser-explored areas through a publicity campaign, and the transport ticket will be updated to cover the whole metropolitan area, further encouraging tourists to venture off the well-beaten track.

Maps issued at local tourist offices will highlight alternative visitor routes, as well as pinpointing facilities such as picnic areas and public bathrooms, to deter tourists from using monuments for such purposes. Each summer, fresh stories emerge of unruly behaviour from visitors, ranging from driving in the car-free centre to bathing in its historic fountains, and public urination.

Police numbers will also be increased in order to crack down on badly behaved tourists, and further awareness campaigns will educate visitors on "responsible and sustainable tourism".

The municipality also plans to introduce limits on the number of tourist accommodations, a solution already introduced by Spanish authorities in Palma de Mallorca and Barcelona.

In addition to restricting visitor numbers, this measure is intended to curb the depopulation of Venice, as rent prices pushed up by the hordes of tourists have seen residents forced to leave the city.

Venice's tourism woes

Tension between locals and visitors to the canal-lined city has been brewing for years.

The tourist office began working on the plans to limit tourist numbers in November, with a spokesperson telling The Local at the time: "It's not definite, but we're considering it".

Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has made it a priority since his election in 2015 to crack down on the tourism industry - and the mission seems to have the full support of residents. Last summer, flyers appeared across the city with a clear message from frustrated locals: “Tourists go away!!! You are destroying this area!”

In April 2016, the city introduced a 'locals-first' policy for its water buses, with two different queues for residents and tourists. The large cruise ships which dock in the Venetian lagoon have also come under fire; although the biggest boats are officially banned, locals say not enough is done to keep out the polluting ships.

Other European beauty spots have come under strain from excessive tourism. Italy's Culture Ministry told The Local last year that it was working on a plan to resolve the issue of overcrowding in several popular cities and towns, including Venice.

And in January, Barcelona passed a law regulating the amount of tourist accommodation in the Spanish city in an effort to ease the strain.

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The island of Ischia. Photo: Renzo Ferrante/Flickr


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