Tourism

Venice to become the world’s first city with an entrance fee

As the world emerges from pandemic restrictions Venice is in high demand again with tourists flocking to the floating city in droves.

During the Easter Weekend, more than 120,000 people visited the city and a steady flow of travellers has continued since.

Their return has spurred the city to introduce a levy aimed at day-trippers, who have not yet copped the city tax for overnighters.

“COVID made us realise that what was an everyday occurrence before isn’t acceptable anymore,” Venice tourism commissioner Simone Venturini said.

“The mentality has changed, as has the sensitivity towards crowds.”

The new fee will come into effect on January 16 2023, making it the world’s first city to charge an entrance fee. These day trippers will have to sign up online and book in advance the day they plan on visiting.

The fee will range from €3 to €10 ($4.50 to $14.80) depending on what time of year the traveller is visiting and advance booking.

Turnstiles at the rail station will check whether people have their QR code for entry and controllers will do spot checks throughout the city, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. Fines of up to €300 ($445) will apply to those who don’t have their pass.

When the idea of a fee was first introduced in 2019, the city’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro said he expected “protests, lawsuits, everything”.

“But I have a duty to make this city liveable for those who inhabit it and also for those who want to visit,” Brugnaro said.

Only 30 per cent of tourists to Venice stay for one night or more, but they account for about 70 per cent of tourism revenue and 100 per cent of tourist tax payments which amount to some €30 million ($44.6 million) per year.

The rest are called “hit-and-run day trippers” who congest the city and don’t spend nearly as much as those who stay one night or more.

Some have even received fines for swimming in the canals and sunbathing topless on a historic landmark.

Although not all locals agree on the day-trippers tax. Ernesto Pancin, head of the local association representing bar and restaurant owners, does not agree with the idea of the tax and said authorities should instead encourage day-trippers to explore lesser-known areas at peak time, away from St Mark’s Square.

“Districts like Castello and Santa Croce are beautiful, but they stay empty most of the day and would finally come back to life,” Pancin said.

“Venice is a city of the world. Every person coming from the other side of the planet has the right to see it, booking or no booking.”

Coming out of pandemic restrictions, Venice is not the only place with a tourist tax on its mind.

Bhutan recently decided to triple its daily tourist tax for when it opens in September.

The South Asian country has risen the amount from USD$65 (AUD$95) to USD$200 (AUD$291) .

Officials said that the new policy rebrands Bhutan as “an exclusive destination,” attracting “discerning tourists” who have more access to a wider range of higher-quality services.



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