An entry fee may not be enough to save Venice from 20 million tourists


Venice’s history, art and architecture attract an estimated 20 million visitors every year. The city, a Unesco World Heritage site, is often crammed with tourists in search of special memories. But for the people who actually live there, this level of tourism has become unsustainable. So from 2024, day-trippers will be charged a 5 euro (4.31 pound) fee as part of an attempt to better manage the flow of visitors.
The city’s mayor has described the charge – which will be implemented on 30 particularly busy days in the spring and summer – as an attempt to “protect the city from mass tourism”. It comes after cruise ships were banned from entering the fragile Venice lagoon in 2021.
Both policies are designed to respond to the particular problem facing Venice, which is that around 80 per cent of its tourists come just for the day. Research has shown that such a high proportion of day-trippers – who tend to spend little – pushes a tourist destination towards decline.
So from next year, all travellers to Venice will have to register their visit in advance and obtain a QR code online. Day trippers will then have to pay the fee; visitors staying overnight will not.
Other exemptions include children under 14, as well as people who travel to the city for work and study, or to visit family members. To enforce the policy, the municipal police and authorised inspectors will carry out random checks. Anyone without the proper QR code will face a fine of up to 300 euros (261 pounds). But some have expressed doubts about whether the 5 euro fee – the price of a coffee or an ice cream – will be enough to dissuade tourists from travelling to this iconic ancient city.
One city politician commented that the charge means Venice has become “a theme park, a Disneyland”, where “you get in by paying an entrance fee”.
Certainly the charge is a lot less than Bhutan’s (recently reduced) “sustainable development fee” of USD 100 (82 pounds) per night, which applies to all tourists, and was introduced to encourage “high value, low impact” tourism. Research also indicates that strategies aiming at persuading tourists to come at less crowded times do not reduce numbers at peak periods, but actually end up increasing overall demand.