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‘It’s not Disneyland’: What Venice residents really think of new ‘tourist tax’

Jessica Lionnel
Jessica Lionnel - [email protected]
‘It’s not Disneyland’: What Venice residents really think of new ‘tourist tax’
Participants wearing carnival costumes parade across St. Mark Square (Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP)

As Venice prepares to trial a charge for day trippers aimed at tackling overcrowding, residents of the floating city are questioning how helpful the measure will be.

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If you type Venice into any news site, you will more than likely find pages upon pages of reports about the day tripper fee or ‘tourist tax’ being introduced from April 25th. 

News of the upcoming test run of a five-euro sum for day tourists who enter Venice between 8.30am and 4pm has reached practically every corner of the globe.

Even James Liotta, an Australia-based comedian, asked his followers on Facebook recently what they thought about Venice’s new charge and whether they'd pay it, and got a big reaction.

One commenter wrote: “No I would not, it is totally exploitation. They can charge for use of amenities, heritage but not for entrance.”

But with most articles and discussions aimed at visitors, they don't necessarily reflect the thoughts of Venice’s residents.

For Eleanora Smith, the toll couldn’t come soon enough. She’s one of the 49,000 people who live in the historic centre of Venice - a number far smaller than the city’s tourist intake.

At peak times, some 100,000 tourists spend the night in the city, with tens of thousands more visiting just for the day.

Eleanora, who has lived on and off in Venice for the past 13 years, says getting day trippers to pay isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it can also be a boost for Venice’s economy.

READ ALSO: Venice promises 'very soft' measures to cut down tourist crowds

“I’m all for this test run,” she tells The Local. “Nothing is set in stone yet, and it’s only for 29 days of the year, so I’m failing to understand what the uproar is about.”

“I’m tired of people coming in, sitting in the streets and eating a cheap slice of pizza. They clog up our walkways, whilst bringing nothing to the city at all.”

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She tells the story of a time when she missed three water buses to get to work because there were lines of tourists.

“My only criticism is I don’t think this is enough,” she continues. “It’s going to be a cat-and-mouse game of police officers doing random checks as opposed to checks being done when the tourists enter.”

READ MORE: Explained: How to use Venice’s new ‘tourist tax’ website.

Jill Goodman, a Venice resident originally from New York City, says: “This is long overdue. Venice is a world heritage site and the fee should be higher. 

“Day trippers add nothing to the economy and they leave their garbage everywhere and swim in the canals.”

Several residents said the fee should be higher and should be in place all year round.

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Venetian Gioia Tiozzo, on the other hand, says no fee would be discouraging enough.

I'm 100-percent Venetian from a Venetian family. I have spent all my life in Venice and I live the problem of over-tourism every single day,” she writes.

She stresses that, whilst she is not a supporter of Venice’s mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, she does think he is trying to find a solution.

“The upcoming fee is just the first step, not the solution to all of Venice's problems,” she continues. “Will the fee work? No. The fee is too low and irrelevant. Too many tourists will avoid it as they could be residents in the Veneto region.

“But it could be an important first step for the future. For me, the fee is a weapon against the illegal B&Bs in Venice. Tourists will not stay in illegal B&Bs if the hosts cannot provide them a pass like legal hotels. This is a crucial point.”

OPINION: Why more of Italy’s top destinations must limit tourist numbers

Laura Pritchard, a UK national and the Vice President of the American International Women’s Association has mixed feelings about the charge. She’s been living in Venice for five years now and was anxious when the news was first announced, but felt calmer when she knew she could apply for an exemption. 

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But she says even that has its issues.

“As always seems to be the case with Italian websites, the procedure to obtain an exemption code for visitors in the city based on being a resident proved to be extremely torturous,” she writes. 

“This is very off-putting. I would be interested to know how difficult it is for someone to just pay the fee.” 

She believes the requirement to have a smartphone on you to show your exemption code is unfair, especially if your phone dies.

READ MORE: What are the new rules for tourist groups visiting Venice?

As it stands, Veneto region residents like Laura, together with those born or working, and studying in Venice among those who are exempt from paying the tourist charge. 

Other categories include visitors staying overnight, children under 14, those with disabilities, those taking part in sports competitions, those who need medical care, relatives of residents, and police officers on duty. 

Venice Carnival Art

Carnival masks in the salon of a mask workshop. (Photo by Adnan Beci / AFP)

“I cannot imagine living in a city where people have to pay to visit, although I am sympathetic to the idea of how to solve the challenge of excessive numbers of visitors at certain times and in certain places,” Laura adds. 

“My biggest concern is where the money raised will go.”

At the time of writing, nothing has been announced by the local government about how the money raised from the new charge will be used.

READ ALSO: The Italian tourist destinations bringing in restrictions this summer

Julia Curtis, a resident from California, says the local community should have more of a say.

They should charge more and we residents should have a democratic say in how these taxes are actually spent. It should not just be for a few days a year but almost all the time,” she writes. 

“We need less day trippers and more tourists who are seriously interested in the city and its many gems and not sure about checking off their list of top attractions in Europe—it’s not Disneyland.”

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Antoine Scicluna however comments: “Cities are there for the world to see and not to be used for profit, just because Italy manages its taxes badly.”

For Gillian Longworth McGuire, the fee doesn’t address bigger issues affecting residents such as sky-high rents and the rules surrounding it are not clear enough.

“Firstly, Venice needs tourism and day trippers do not need to be a net negative,” she says. “Venice needs people, but not those who sit on the sidewalk eating lunch. I doubt they’d do that in their hometowns.

“What happens to all this money? Will it be spent on improving Venice’s public transportation? Will it remain on the mainland? There has been no mention of what will happen.

“I’m afraid this fee has got me asking more and more questions.”

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Comments (1)

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Paul Covello 2024/04/20 09:13
I understand the fee for tourists but really, Italian citizens should be exempt. Citizens who do not live there might be there for other reasons like to visit friends, business reasons, perhaps property shopping for purchase or rent. I also think if the Italian citizens (and maybe EU citizens as well) get caught up, it would curtail their rights to free movement. Imagine if Chicago, Paris, or other cities started charging citizens just to enter? That sets a very bad precedence.

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