Venice is planning to introduce a tourist tax. Is this a sign of things to come?
In a bid to tackle overtourism, the Italian city is set to charge day-trippers a ‘tourist tax’ of up to €10 in 2023. But what does this mean for travellers, and will other destinations follow suit?
It’s long drawn tourists for its art and culture, but these days Venice is synonymous with something less appealing: overcrowding. The lagoon city, which has around 50,000 inhabitants in the centre, is swamped by around 20 million visitors a year – nobody is quite sure of the exact number because most of them are day-trippers, who are hard to count. Enter the ‘entry fee’ of up to €10 (£8.50) to access the floating city.
Why is this happening?
Around 90% of visitors to Venice are what the city calls ‘hit and runs’ – day-trippers, often bussed or boated in from the surrounding area and even as far away as Croatia. These visitors tend to spend less money in the city, clog the areas around the main sites, and leave plenty of rubbish in their wake.
Venice is a walkable city, and the main sites such as St Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge are free, which means the ‘hit and runs’ contribute little to the economy but leave a massive impact. Around 158,000 tourists swamped the city on Easter Sunday this year – that’s a ratio of more than three visitors to every resident.
Authorities want to reduce the overcrowding. Their solution: to introduce an entry fee of up to €10 for day-trippers in the hope of putting some of them off, or persuading people to visit on a less busy day, when it’ll be cheaper to get in.
How will it work?
That’s not yet clear. This project was in the works before the pandemic and although solutions such as turnstiles and QR codes have been mooted, nothing has yet been confirmed. Many locals are vocally against turnstiles, arguing that they’d turn the city into the ‘theme park’ many tourists treat Venice like anyway.
However it’s enforced, the idea is that you book your day trip to Venice ahead of time to enable authorities to plan for busy days, and to encourage visitors to spread the numbers across the year. For instance, if you select a bank holiday or another day in peak season, you’ll get a message suggesting you rebook to avoid overcrowding, tourism councillor Simone Venturini told Italian state TV, RAI. If you continue, you’ll pay up to €10 for your ticket. Go on a quieter day and it will be €3 (£2.50).
I already paid a tourist tax on my last trip to Venice – will I pay twice?
No. Like many other major European cities, Venice already charges a ‘city tax’ for overnight guests. Introduced in 2011, Venice’s charge depends on the kind of accommodation, as well as the season and the area you’re staying in. It covers the first five nights of your stay – you could stay five nights or a month and you’d pay the same fee. The fee – from €1 (85p) to €5 (£4.25) per person per night – is payable to the hotel, B&B or rental you’re staying at.
There’s just one problem: day-trippers don’t pay this tax, yet they’re the ones who have the most impact on the city. The new entry fee aims to redress that balance. If you’re staying overnight (and therefore paying the original city tax), you’ll be exempt. In fact, the authorities hope the fee might encourage visitors to stay overnight, adding more to the local economy.
When will it start?
In April, the city council announced that the fee would be imposed from January 2023. However, the charge was first mooted in early 2019 and has been repeatedly pushed back, so don’t take that start date as gospel, particularly since they haven’t decided how to enact it yet. In the meantime, Venturini has said that the city will launch an online portal this summer to run as part of a pilot scheme. Visitors who voluntarily book through this scheme won’t have to pay the tax and will receive discounts and fast-track entry at tourist sites.
Will other destinations follow suit?
Quite possibly. Venturini told RAI that “other European cities who live with significant numbers of daytrippers are watching us” to understand how they can introduce something similar. Venice isn’t the first, either – hilltop Italian village Civita di Bagnoregio charges an entry fee of between €3 (£2.50) and €5 (£4.25). (Ironically, it was instigated in 2013 as a way of piquing interest to gain visitors.) Overnight tourist taxes, already widespread in Europe, look set to hit the UK soon, too, with the SNP keen to introduce one, despite not taking full control of the council in the recent elections. Wales is scheduling a consultation on a visitor tax for autumn 2022, though it’s not clear whether that would apply to day-trippers or those staying overnight.
But take heart – at least Venice’s €10 maximum pales in comparison to Bhutan, which taxes visitors upwards of $250 (£200) a day to keep numbers down.
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