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VENICE

Tourism ebbs in flood-hit Venice as hotel bookings plummet

Fears of more unprecedented flooding in Venice has brought hotel reservations down by 45 percent, the city's hoteliers association said Friday.

Tourism ebbs in flood-hit Venice as hotel bookings plummet
St. Mark's Square during flooding in November. Photo: AFP

Last month, the northern Italian city of canals was hit by the highest tide in more than 50 years, with tourists wading through flooded streets to seek shelter as a fierce wind whipped up waves in St. Mark's Square.

The exceptionally intense “acqua alta,” or high waters, peaked at 1.87 metres on November 12th, according to the tide monitoring centre.

“Since mid-November, following a historic flood, we have seen an unprecedented drop (in the number) of bookings. This did not even happen after the attacks on the Twin Towers,” said Vittorio Bonacini, chief of the Association of Venetian Hoteliers during a press conference.

“We recorded a peak of 45 percent cancellations (in the last 30 days) and had to cancel events, conferences and major initiatives planned for next year,” he added.

Bonacini said people's understanding of the situation on the ground was far from reality.

“We have received worried calls from the United States, asking us if a child one and a half meters tall could visit without being in danger.”

But he said Venice is more than a meter above sea level and that when people speak of a 1.30 metre high tide, the reality is the water level is only 30 centimetres and only in some parts of the old city.

He also said the historic high tide lasted only an hour and a half, before the situation normalised within in a few hours.

According to the association, more than 31 million tourists visited Venice last year — but 20 million spent only one day there and only 11.5 million stayed in the 274 hotels in the historic centre.

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VENICE

Italy to pay €57m compensation over Venice cruise ship ban

The Italian government announced on Friday it would pay 57.5 million euros in compensation to cruise companies affected by the decision to ban large ships from Venice's fragile lagoon.

A cruise ship in St Mark's Basin, Venice.
The decision to limit cruise ship access to the Venice lagoon has come at a cost. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

The new rules, which took effect in August, followed years of warnings that the giant floating hotels risked causing irreparable damage to the lagoon city, a UNESCO world heritage site.

READ ALSO: Venice bans large cruise ships from centre after Unesco threat of ‘endangered’ status

Some 30 million euros has been allocated for 2021 for shipping companies who incurred costs in “rescheduling routes and refunding passengers who cancelled trips”, the infrastructure ministry said in a statement.

A further 27.5 million euros – five million this year and the rest in 2022 – was allocated for the terminal operator and related companies, it said.

The decision to ban large cruise ships from the centre of Venice in July came just days before a meeting of the UN’s cultural organisation Unesco, which had proposed adding Venice to a list of endangered heritage sites over inaction on cruise ships.

READ ALSO: Is Venice really banning cruise ships from its lagoon?

Under the government’s plan, cruise ships will not be banned from Venice altogether but the biggest vessels will no longer be able to pass through St Mark’s Basin, St Mark’s Canal or the Giudecca Canal. Instead, they’ll be diverted to the industrial port at Marghera.

But critics of the plan point out that Marghera – which is on the mainland, as opposed to the passenger terminal located in the islands – is still within the Venice lagoon.

Some aspects of the plan remain unclear, as infrastructure at Marghera is still being built. Meanwhile, smaller cruise liners are still allowed through St Mark’s and the Giudecca canals.

Cruise ships provide a huge economic boost to Venice, but activists and residents say the ships contribute to problems caused by ‘overtourism’ and cause large waves that undermine the city’s foundations and harm the fragile ecosystem of its lagoon.

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