Anger as Venice begins charging visitors to enter city from today | World News

Visitors to Venice are being charged to enter the Italian city from today, under a controversial scheme.

Authorities say the pilot programme is designed to discourage tourists from arriving on peak days and make the city more liveable for residents.

Signs advising arriving visitors of the new €5 fee (£4.28) during a test phase of 29 days through July have been put up outside the main train station and other points of entry.

Around 200 stewards have been trained to politely walk anyone unaware of the charge through the process of downloading a QR code – with a kiosk set up for anyone not equipped with a smartphone.

Officials will carry out random checks on people beyond the entry ports from 8.30am to 4pm, to make sure people have either paid the day-tripper tax or are exempt.

Transgressors face fines of between €50 and €300 (£53-£257).

Outside the 8.30am-4pm period, access is free.

“We need to find a new balance between the tourists and residents,” said the city’s top tourism official, Simone Venturini.

“We need to safeguard the spaces of the residents, of course, and we need to discourage the arrival of day-trippers on some particular days.”

Venice has long suffered from the pressures of over-tourism. Many come to see a World Heritage Site famous the world over for its medieval architecture crammed into a picturesque canal network.

Officials say pre-pandemic estimates ranging from 25 million to 30 million visitors a year – including day-trippers – are not reliable and that the pilot project also aims to come up with more exact figures to help better manage the phenomenon.

In contrast, registered visitors spending the night last year numbered 4.6 million, according to city figures, down 16% from pre-pandemic highs.

Mr Venturini said the city was strained when the number of day-trippers reached 30,000 to 40,000 – leaving its narrow alleyways clogged with people and water taxis packed, causing problems for residents in their everyday lives.

However, some residents are unconvinced as to whether the plan will succeed in preventing mass tourism.

Some say more attention needs to be paid to boosting the resident population and services they need.

Venice passed a milestone last year when the number of tourist beds exceeded for the first time the number of official residents, who now number less than 50,000 in the historic centre.

“Putting a ticket to enter a city will not decrease not even by one single unit the number of visitors that are coming,” said Tommaso Cacciari, an activist who organised a protest against the measures today.

“You pay a ticket to take the metro, to go to a museum, an amusement park; you don’t pay a ticket to enter a city. This is the last symbolic step of a project of an idea of this municipal administration to kick residents out of Venice.”

But Mr Venturini said around 6,000 people had already paid to download the QR code, with officials expecting paid day-tripper arrivals today to reach about 10,000.

More than 70,000 others have downloaded a QR code denoting an exemption, including to work in Venice or as a resident of the Veneto region.

And, Mr Venturini indicated, Venice may not be the last major European city to introduce a charge for people to enter.

He said the pilot programme was being closely watched by other places suffering from mass tourism – including other Italian art cities and weekend-break hotspots Barcelona and Amsterdam.

SOURCE: World News – Breaking international news and headlines | Sky News   (go to source)
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