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Venice to bring in delayed 'tourist tax' from 2024

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AFP/The Local - [email protected]
Venice to bring in delayed 'tourist tax' from 2024
St Mark's square on September 3rd, 2023. Venice's city council has again announced plans to charge for entry to the historic centre. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Venice announced it will trial a long-delayed ticketing system from spring next year, as mass tourism puts the city’s UNESCO status at risk.

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Councillors said on Tuesday that day-trippers would be charged five euros to enter the floating city's historic centre from next year in an attempt to control crowds and lessen the impact of mass tourism.

The council executive backed the move just weeks after UN cultural agency UNESCO recommended Venice be added to its list of world heritage in danger.

READ ALSO: 'Please don't come': Summer tourists overwhelm 'endangered' Venice

"Regulating tourist flows in certain periods is necessary, but that does not mean closing the city," said mayor Luigi Brugnaro.

"Venice will always be open to everyone."

The plan to charge an entry fee, which was first announced in 2019 and has been repeatedly delayed, must still be approved by the wider city council, which meets on September 12th.

And many details are still unclear, notably on how many tickets will be available.

But the council executive on Tuesday agreed to a 30-day trial, likely spread out across public holidays and weekends in the spring and summer of 2024.

EXPLAINED: What happened to Venice's plan for a ‘tourist tax’?

Residents, commuters, students and children under the age of 14 will be exempt, as will tourists who stay in the city overnight, the local authority said in a statement.

"The objective is to discourage daily tourism in certain periods, in line with the fragility and uniqueness of the city," it said.

With the new system, Venice will become a "trailblazer on the global level", claimed Simone Venturini, the city's council member for tourism.

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He said the scheme was not about making money - with the proposed five-euro fee only covering costs - but finding a "new balance between the rights of those who live, study or work in Venice, and those who visit the city".

Venice authorities have for years faced calls to ease the pressure of the vast numbers of tourists who flock to see sights including the Rialto Bridge and St Mark's Square.

The ticketing plan has been repeatedly postponed, reportedly over concerns it will seriously dent tourist revenue and compromise freedom of movement.

The plan has also been bogged down by a failure to reach agreements with local transport operators and port authorities on the enforcement of the new rules.

UNESCO put Venice on its heritage list in 1987 as an "extraordinary architectural masterpiece", but it has warned of the need for "more sustainable tourism management".

On July 31st, it warned the city risked "irreversible" damage due to a string of issues ranging from climate change to mass tourism.

The recommendation that the city be added to its list of world heritage in danger will be discussed at a meeting of UNESCO's World Heritage Committee in Riyadh later this month.

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