Cities around the world often grapple with two realities: that tourists are an important part of a local economy, but that too many tourists can cause problems for landmarks, city infrastructure, and locals too.
Venice, Italy has moved to implement a new measure that some consider to be rather extreme: to restrict the movement of tourists in and around some landmarks. The planned bans are in response to possibly record-breaking levels of tourism. Some officials are calling for a ban on cruise ships, complaining that visitors are “low-quality tourists” who challenge the city’s identity.
“If you arrive on a big ship, get off, you have two or three hours, follow someone holding a flag to Piazzale Roma, Ponte di Rialto and San Marco and turn around,” said Dario Franceschini, Italy’s culture minister, in an interview with the New York Times.
“The beauty of Italian towns is not only the infrastructure, it’s also the actual activity of the place, the stores, the workshops.”
Officials say tourists have left locals feeling on edge and unwelcome. A mass exodus of Venetians is being blamed on cruise ship tourism. In the last 70 years, 125,000 Venetians have moved away from the famous Grand Canal.
Anger among locals has reached a boiling point. Last year, 2,000 Venetians protested out of frustration against the tourism industry, expressing that tourists damage the environment and disrespect the city they call home.
“Around 2,000 people leave each year,” says Carlo Beltrame, one of the organizers of last year’s protest. “If we go on this way, in a few years time Venice will only be populated by tourists. This would be a social, anthropological, and historical nightmare.”
Today’s ban will redirect streams of tourists around popular destinations like the Strada Nuova and Piazzale Roma. Some areas of the city will be accessible only to those who can prove their residence with a Venezia Unica card.
Additionally, motorists planning to visit the city may be turned away if they have not reserved a parking space.
While some residents are simply outraged by the tourists, others are taking a more diplomatic approach. #EnjoyRespectVenezia has gained some traction among locals who want to encourage tourists to treat the city with respect and encourage a different type of management system for tourists.