The truth about tourism in Venice

Throughout the eighteenth century the ‘grand tour’ saw many young, wealthy aristocrats travel to historic European cities for cultural enlightenment; one of the most popular destinations was the floating city of Venice. Millions of tourists have since travelled to this beautiful metropolis famed for its elegant decay. The Venetian economy has consequently become heavily reliant on the tourism, with the high number of tourists creating employment opportunities within the hospitality industry. However, recent anti-tourist protests driven by local residents have magnified many issues caused by the negative effects of mass tourism on this beautiful city.

One ramification of mass tourism in Venice is the effect on the local population; there is a clear correlation between the rise in visitors and forced depopulation of the city. Many residents are being driven out by high rents as, for property owners, renting or selling to tourists brings in considerably more money.

Similarly, many artisan shops are closing down in favour of more profitable souvenir shop alternative. It appears the city is involuntarily pushing out local Venetian culture in favour of appeasing tourists. Inconsiderate behaviour by tourists has also exacerbated the increasingly tense relations. Growing numbers of cruise ships passing through the Grand Canal are also cause for alarm, damaging the delicate Venetian ecosystem.

Often docking in Venice for a day, they arrive carrying large numbers of tourists often overwhelming the city with visitors in a short space of time. Additionally, due to the short length of stay, only few businesses benefit from these arrivals.

The authorities in Venice have tried to address the problems resulting from high numbers of tourism. Fines are in place for certain antisocial behaviour such as littering or obstructing bridges. The city also plans to promote lesser-explored areas, so tourists will be more dispersed.

Similarly, authorities are preventing new hotels or fast food restaurants from being opened, as they are seen to be ‘increasingly taking over residential buildings in the city’. A ‘locals first’ policy has also been introduced on waterbuses and some cruise operators have reduced the number of cruisers entering the city.

All these efforts are in an attempt to maintain a sustainable level of tourism, but more accurately risk manage the numbers which are already present.

Conclusively, the aim of this article is not to dissuade from visiting the city of Venice. However, it is worth taking into account when visiting the unique city how you as a tourist will make an impact. We should all be aware of our actions when we are on holiday and ensure that we don’t inconvenience anyone. After all, no one really needs to spend a full 20 minutes on a bridge do they?


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January 2022
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