ROME — Beginning in January, Venice will require day-trippers to make reservations and pay a fee to visit the historic lagoon city to better manage visitors, who often have far more residents in the historic center and clog narrow streets and heavy footbridges that cross the canals.
Venice officials on Friday unveiled new rules for day-trippers that will come into effect on January 16, 2023.
Tourists who do not wish to stay in hotels or other accommodation must register online and pay a fee for the day they wish to come. These range from 3 to 10 euros ($3.15 to $10.50) per person, depending on pre-booking and whether it is peak season or the city is very busy.
Violators risk fines of up to 300 euros ($315) if they are stopped without showing they booked and paid with a QR code.
About four fifths of all tourists come to Venice for just one day. In 2019, the last full year of tourism before the pandemic, around 19 million day-trippers visited Venice, generating only a fraction of the revenue of those who stayed at least one night.
Venice’s tourism commissioner dismissed any suggestion that the measure would aim to limit the number of out-of-towners coming to Italy’s busiest city.
“We will not talk about number cuts. We are talking about incentives and disincentives,” said Simone Venturini at a press conference in Venice.
The reservation and fee approach had been discussed a few years ago but was put on hold during the pandemic. COVID-19 travel restrictions almost wiped out tourism in Venice – leaving Venetians to have their city virtually to themselves for the first time in decades.
Mass tourism began in the mid-1960s. Visitor numbers continued to rise while the number of Venetians living in the city steadily decreased, overwhelmed by traffic jams, the high cost of delivering groceries and other goods in car-free Venice, and frequent flooding that damaged homes and businesses.
Since guests in hotels and guesthouses already pay an accommodation tax, they are exempt from the obligation to make reserves.
With the new rule, Venice aims to “find that balance between (Venetian) residents and long-term and short-term visitors,” Venturini said, promising that the new system “will be easy for visitors to work with.” He called Venice the first city in the world to introduce such a system for day visitors only.
The tourism official expressed hope that the fee and reservation requirement “will reduce friction between day visitors and residents.” In the peak tourism system, tourists can outnumber residents by 2 to 1 in the city, which covers an area of 5 square kilometers (2 sq mi).
Venice’s population in the historic city is just over 50,000, a small fraction of what it was a few generations ago.
Children under the age of 6, people with disabilities and owners of vacation rentals in Venice are exempt from day trip fees as long as they can prove that they pay property taxes.
Cruise ships add to the hordes of visitors who swarm Venice’s maze of narrow streets, especially near St. Mark’s Square, when they disembark day-trippers for a few hours. These visitors must also pay unless their cruise line pays a set fee to Venice.