ROME — Traveling to Venice? Prepare to pay for the privilege of visiting the city, one of the most beautiful in the world. Oh, and be sure to reserve your spot.
From January 2023, visitors must make a reservation through a new digital system and many will have to pay a daily fee – from 3 to 10 euros depending on how crowded Venice is at the time – as part of a plan to better control the masses of tourists who can overwhelm the fragile city.
The system will allow city officials to know in advance how many visitors they can expect on a given day, and can then deploy staff and services accordingly. Those who book early will be charged lower rates.
The reservation system and the entrance fee are part of a “revolution” when it comes to visiting Venice and its islands, Simone Venturini, the city councilor in charge of tourism and development, told the press on Friday. economic. He said it aims to balance “the needs of residents, the needs of tourists sleeping in town and those of day-trippers, whose paces are different”.
Before the pandemic dampened tourism, hordes of day visitors and cruise ship passengers had turned Venice into a prime example of ‘overtourism’, its narrow streets so congested that on some days police have instituted one-way flows. Annual estimates of tourist numbers fluctuate wildly, with some as high as 30 million and others, more modestly, as high as 12 million.
In a city of just over 50,000 people, those numbers were overwhelming at times.
Almost everyone visiting the city will be required to register, but not everyone will have to pay a fee, including children under the age of 6, guests of Venetian residents and visiting relatives of people detained in the prisons. city jails. Residents of the city, people who work in Venice, students enrolled in schools in the city and owners (as long as they have paid their taxes) are among those who will not have to register or pay at all.
But even those who are exempt will have to prove they have the right to be in the city. Officials said verification could be done through a QR code that reveals if someone deserves an exemption.
Tourists sleeping in the city will not pay the daily fee directly as a fee is already added to their hotel stay.
People will be stopped in the streets to make sure they have paid or qualify for an exemption. Ten to 15 “controllers” will be deployed daily to enforce the rules, said Michèle Zuin, the city councilor in charge of the budget and taxes.
“Naturally, their attitude will not be that of a police state – they will be cordial, polite,” Mr Zuin said. “But there will be checks, just as there will be penalties for those caught without making payment.”
Violators will face hefty fines, ranging from €50 to €300, plus a €10 entry fee. And if someone is found to have lied — claiming, for example, that they were visiting a resident in order to avoid charges — they could face criminal penalties, Mr Venturini said.
City officials are still fine-tuning some details, like daily pricing and a daily cap on the number of people. They hope that higher costs during peak season will entice people to come at slower times. “But the city of Venice will remain open,” Mr Zuin said.
The city’s costs for implementing and managing the system are expected to be substantial, so the city does not anticipate that the fees will do much more than recoup its investment. If there was anything left, it would be used to offset taxes and service charges for residents.
Mr Venturini said the new reservation system complements a surveillance system that Venice City Council introduced last year to track people via phone location data, a system some critics have likened to Big Brother.
Mr Venturini claimed that Venice would be the first city in the world to use such a complex surveillance system. Bumps in the road could be expected, he said.
“It would be silly, ambitious, arrogant to think that everything will work perfectly, in the snap of a finger,” he said. “That will not be the case,” he added. “It will be a course that can certainly be improved and we will work constantly.”