(CNN) — Venice has long been an example of excessive tourism. There are long waiting lines, uncomfortable crowds and the proliferation of Airbnbs, which are said to have driven the inhabitants of the city.
The authorities have been looking for a way to control the situation for some time and the recent threat by UNESCO to withdraw its status as a World Heritage Site accentuates the urgency.
The proposed solution? To be the first city in the world to require the payment of an entrance fee, with a system that only allows entry to the city for one-day visitors who have a reservation. The plan was announced before the pandemic and then put on ice as the city was devastated by a shortage of tourists.
Now, the mayor of the city has announced that visitors will be able to make their reservations starting this summer and that the entrance fee will apply from January 2023.
After a suffocating Easter weekend – in which 120,000 tourists flooded the city of 50,000 inhabitants this Saturday, according to local police, and on Sunday the number rose to 158,000, according to data from the Intelligent Control Room (Smart Control Room in English) – Mayor Luigi Brugnaro announced that the reservation system was going ahead.
The reservation system “is the right path, for a more balanced management of tourism”, tweeted.
“We will be the first in the world in this difficult experiment.”
The councilor responsible for Tourism, Simone Venturini, told RAI, the state television channel, that in a few weeks the city will launch a “very simple and fast” portal for online reservations.
“This summer it will be possible to book a day trip and in 2023 we will launch a ‘contributo di accesso'” – or entrance fee -, he said.
Venturini said the pandemic had given city officials pause.
“Covid made us realize that what was everyday before covid is no longer acceptable: the mentality has changed, as has the problem with crowds,” he said.
The reservation system will be voluntary in 2022, he announced, adding that visitors will be offered “incentives” to use the portal, including being able to skip queues at various sites and museums. It will work as a test, to implement the mandatory system in January 2023.
Having the reservation system “will give us the possibility of knowing how many people are expected for that day and calibrating the services based on that number”.
On the busiest days, long queues have formed again on public transport. Last year, the city employed armed guards to keep the peace on the pontoons of crowded ferries.
Venturini said the portal will also encourage people to change their minds about their travel dates.
“We can say: ‘Dear visitor, we do not advise you to come on this date because it is Ferragosto (August bank holiday) or Easter; there will be many people and that will prevent you from having a quiet visit, and if you do it a week later you can enjoy your visit more,'” he said.
When entrance fees take effect in January, they will range from 3 euros ($3.25) for a quiet day to 10 euros ($10.85) for a busier day.
The rate will only be for one day visitors
The fee will only apply to day visitors, as those staying overnight in Venice are exempt. The idea is to deter the notorious “tramplers” who come to town, spend little money at local businesses, and leave their trash behind.
“Our ‘borghi’ (walled cities) and historic centers really suffer from the excess of day-trippers at certain times of the year,” explains Venturini.
“The message we want to give is that Venice is a city that lives slowly, at different rates than anywhere else. It is fragile, unique and needs an approach from visitors that is not ‘come in, take a picture and leave’. ‘”.
He said visitors should take a “slower, more respectful approach”.
Venturini also predicted that Venice will not be the last city to adopt a per visitor fee.
“I think many other European cities that have significant numbers of day visitors are looking to us to see how they can introduce a similar system,” he said.
Venice may be the first city with this measure, but there is already a town in Italy that already asks for a tax for travelers. Civita di Bagnoregio introduced a “token” fee of 1.50 euros ($1.67) in 2013. Mayor Francesco Bigiotti planned it as a trick of marketing to lure tourists to his ruined clifftop village, known as the “dying city.”
The fee intrigued visitors to such an extent that visitors went from 40,000 in 2009 to a million in 2018.