Tourist-flooded Venice approved guidelines on Tuesday for testing a new fee for day-trippers on peak visitor weekends next year.
The city council gave the go-ahead for the guidelines, tweaking earlier plans for a fee that were announced a year ago. Final approval of the plan will come up for consideration on Sept. 12.
The fee, initially about $5.50 per day-tripper, is "not a tool for making cash," the city said in a statement. Instead, the strategy aims to improve the quality of life for Venice's dwindling number of full-time residents, as well as overnight visitors, who already pay a lodging tax and so will be exempt from the fee.
The test will last about 30 days and take place in 2024 on spring weekends spanning Italian national holidays and on summer weekends. The exact days of the test will be set by the city in the coming weeks.
"The aim is to disincentivize daily tourism in certain periods, in line with the fragility and uniqueness of the city,'' the statement said.
Those exempted from the fee include people who commute to work in Venice or on the smaller islands, students, residents of the Veneto region, which includes the city, and those who pay taxes on local property. The fee will be applied to day-trippers over the age of 14.
Numbers support the action
Roughly four-fifths of all tourists come to Venice just for the day. In 2019, the last full year of tourism before the Covid-19 pandemic, about 19 million day-trippers visited Venice and provided just a fraction of the revenue of those who stayed for at least one night. With just a few hours to spend in the city, day-trippers tend to flock to St. Mark's Square and other tourist musts, adding to pedestrian traffic that makes walking down the city's narrow streets or over some of its bridges a slow slog.
The fee strategy was discussed a few years ago but was put on hold during the pandemic. Travel restrictions during much of the outbreak saw tourism in Venice nearly vanish — and let Venetians have their city practically to themselves for the first time in decades.
Last year, an advanced sign-up plan for day-trippers was envisioned in addition to the fee. Tuesday's statement by the city didn't indicate if consideration will eventually be given to capping the number of day-trippers at certain times.
Mass tourism to Venice started in the mid-1960s, and visitor numbers have kept climbing. Meanwhile, the number of people living in the city has steadily decreased due to congestion, the high cost of delivering food and other goods in car-less Venice, and frequent flooding that damages homes and businesses.
In 1970, the historic heart of Venice — excluding inhabitants living on tiny, quaint Venetian lagoon islands Murano and Burano — had a full-time population of about 110,000. By last year, that number had shrunk to barely 50,000.