And just like that, tourists in Venice are back. Easter weekend saw an average of 125,000 visitors per day in the lagoon city, similar to pre-pandemic levels during festivities.
Along with the tourists returned the usual debates on how to tackle the large number of daily arrivals.
One issue that has been debated for years is whether to charge an entry fee. Right after Easter weekend, Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro told a local newspaper that day trippers will have to start booking their visits to the historic center this summer, ahead of an entry fee to be charged starting in 2023.
This is not the first time Venice authorities have made such an announcement. Speaking to La Repubblica newspaper, Venice’s tourism councillor Simone Venturini said that the city will launch a pilot program in June (originally, the entry fee was to be implemented in June). Day trippers will be invited (not required) to book on a website that, as per his words, is being completed. As a way to encourage visitors to book, those who do will be offered incentives such as discounts on entering museums, Venturini said. The reservation will not cost anything for now.
The entry fee has instead been postponed to early 2023. It will range between €3 and €10 depending on how busy the city is on the day of the visit. For example, if a day tripper decides to visit on a day when Venice tends to be busy, they will pay the maximum amount of €10; if they visit in low season, they will pay the minimum of €3. To determine the access fee, Venturini said, the city will set a maximum threshold of 40,000 to 50,000 daily visitors (approximately one visitor per resident of Venice).
Venturini clarified that those who stay overnight will not have to pay any access fee because they already pay a tourist tax (tassa di soggiorno). There will also be other exemptions, such as for those who enter the city to visit relatives, for a funeral or a medical visit. People living in the Veneto region also will be exempt from paying the fee, but they will eventually be required to book too.
Talks of a Venice entrance fee are far from new. A measure to charge an entry fee was approved by the Italian government in late 2018, when Venice attracted an estimated 30 million visitors a year. Over the years, several scholars have proposed a booking system to regulate entry into the city; however, no-one called for an entry fee, a solution that has raised more than one’s eyebrows.
This "pilot phase" is said to precede the installation of access gates that will be positioned in key places around the city center to verify bookings, something that has also been discussed for years.
The local Democratic Party delegation has criticized the Brugnaro administration for its “immobilism,” claiming they could have taken advantage of the break caused by pandemic to rethink a new model for Venice; instead, the criticism goes, they have not launched any sensible plans for the management and planning of tourism in the city. They also added that the entry fee would have no effect on the management of tourist flows.