Italy’s 2019 budget makers announced Venice can now impose admission fees to tourists visiting for only one day. This is one of the first big steps to combat overtourism in one of the world’s most iconic—and overcrowded—tourist destinations.
The legislation allows fees up to about $11 per person, with an initial figure about half that—but potentially increasing to the maximum in peak summer season. Venice already charges small fees ($1.50 to $7 nightly) for hotel stays, but this new measure would be aimed at the city’s many visitors who are only visiting for the day.
Venice is a poster city for overtourism. It’s a group of small islands, with a famous public square surrounded by historic buildings and quaint neighborhoods, all surrounded by canals. Residents complain that peak tourism makes it almost impossible to live a normal life. And the heavy crowds degrade the visitor experience for everybody. Venice is also in a unique position to test the visitor fee concept: Its geography makes such a fee more feasible than it would be in less isolated visitor centers such as Florence.
Because Venice is a big-time port of call for Mediterranean cruises, cruise visitors will likely be the primary initial target of the fee. A giant cruiseship unleashes thousands of day-trippers to clog the city’s squares, museums, and neighborhoods while leaving very little money with the city’s restaurants and hotels. Setting a fee system for land and air visitors will be more difficult, especially given the need to exempt Venice workers who might not live in the city proper.
The fee will certainly add a lot of money to the city’s coffers—the current estimate is around $57 million per year. But will even the top fee of $11 per person be high enough to deter cruise passengers from leaving their ships during a port call, or to discourage cruiselines from scheduling Venice visits?
Venice plans to have its fee up and running for summer 2019. If you plan to visit, be ready for a fee, but probably only if you visit by cruise. Figuring out a way to add a fee to other visitors will likely take an extra year or more.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 12 Dream Destinations That Don’t Want You to Visit
- How to Cope with Overcrowded Tourist Destinations
- Priority Pass Changes Point to Overcrowded Airport Lounges
Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuse every day at SmarterTravel.