Day-trippers to Venice will be forced to pay what amounts to an admission fee, according to the city’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro.
At present anyone who stays overnight in Venice pays between €1 (90p) and €5 per person for the city’s hotel tax.
Day visitors currently avoid any charge, and can access the city via the Ponte della Libertà (“Liberty Bridge”) for as little as €1.50 by bus.
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But the mayor announced on Twitter that he will take advantage of Italy’s liberalised budget laws to introduce what is called a contributo di sbarco – literally a disembarkation contribution – for visitors.
The aim, said Mr Brugnaro, is to “protect those who live, study and work in our territory”.
He said: “It will help us to better manage the city, to keep it clean, to offer innovative services to guests and to make the Venetians live more decorously.”
Activists in Venice have expressed concern about “overtourism”. In the spring of 2018, the mayor announced special measures “to guarantee public safety, security and livability” – and installed crowd control barriers at key locations in the historic city to regulate the flow of visitors.
Around 25 million tourists visit Venice each year, which works out at one coachload of 48 people every minute.
But it is estimated that only one visitor in five stays overnight.
For travellers living in northwest Slovenia, southeast Austria and even Bavaria in southern Germany, Venice can be accessed as a day trip from home.
The key questions about the new levy are: how much will it cost to visit Venice, and how will it be collected?
The city council is set to decide both issues.
If day-trippers are taxed a token €1 (the same as a stay in a one-star hotel) and non-staying visitor numbers remain the same, the city will benefit to the tune of €20m annually – plenty with which to enhance the city’s appearance. But some locals believe that taxation should be used to dampen demand to visit the city.
A charge of €5 would act as a deterrent for travellers on a lower budget, and might turn attention to other beautiful and historic cities nearby, including Vicenza and Padua.
It is believed that if the plan reaches fruition, Venice will be the first city in the world with an admission fee for day visitors. But its unique geography, comprising an archipelago accessible only by bridge or water, makes it also one of the few cities where levying a charge is feasible.
A toll could be levied on cars and coaches travelling over the Ponte della Libertà, with the charge included in train tickets across the parallel railway from Mestre on the mainland to Santa Lucia station in Venice.
The only other access is by water from the Lido – again, the visitor charge could be added to fares.
Already, visitors to Venice pay five times as much as local people for vaporetti – the boats which act as local buses.
Other cities with concerns about overtourism, including Barcelona and Dubrovnik, will be watching developments closely.