In Venice: Unsustainable Tourism

November 23, 2019
In Venice: Unsustainable Tourism

Venice’s tourist population has swelled to 30 million people a year, and many arrive on the approximately 570 cruise ships that make calls in the lagoon.

Desperate to preserve the city’s image, the Italian transport minister is pulling the plug on large ship access to the Grand Canal near Piazzo San Marco square beginning in April 2020.  Reductions in the number of cruise ships entering the area were already introduced in August 2019.

In addition, beginning in July 2020, day-trippers arriving by public transport will pay a fee of three euros during the off-season and eight euros in high season to help preserve the city’s quality of life.  Those who choose to visit during peak times, such as summer weekends, will have to pay an additional 10 euro charge to visit the city center and islands of the lagoon.

Video Spotlight:

This post is based on the Express article, Tourism crackdown: Venice to ban large cruise ships in bid to save city, by Leonie Chao-Fong, November 7, 2019; the Worth article,  Facing Rising Water and Rising Tourism, Venice Fights Back, by Jackie Cooperman, November 5, 2019; and the YouTube videos, Is Tourism Causing Venice To Crumble?, by Today, August 30, 2018, and  Venice to ban large cruise ships after 10 year battle, by ITV News, August 8, 2019. Image source: Ken Welsh/AGEfotostock

Discussion Questions:

1. What capacity planning issues does Venice face due to the heavy tourism business it supports?

Guidance: Many locals are frustrated with huge cruise ships which drop enormous crowds into the city, mar the views of the lagoon, and pollute the water. Many local stores and businesses that catered to locals have gone out of business in favor of tourist shops, restaurants, and the like. Living space is at a premium, and many residents have moved off the island to the mainland.  In the last four to five years, tourism has spiked even higher than it was in the past, while the local population has dwindled.  Tourist dollars drive the city’s economy, but the number of day-trippers is becoming unsustainable.

Cruise ship companies have spent the last two decades focusing on economies of scale, building larger and larger vessels and expecting everyone else to adapt. This includes not only ports, but also roads, trains, bus service, hotels, and the like.  Cruise ships are not the only ones using the ports, however, and the 2,200 hectares also receive another 3,200 plus from the shipping industry, employing almost 20,000 workers.

2. What capacity measures are being considered or implemented to try to reduce demand or redistribute it to off-peak times?

Guidance: In addition to the already-mentioned cruise ship bans and tourist fees, other measures are being tried to shift demand to off-peak times.  Luxury travel is important to Venice’s image, and high-end properties are trying to draw visitors by spreading the calendar of attractions to extend beyond high season.  They are offering unique meetings with artists and private tours after hours of popular attractions, focusing on visitors who want to delve deeper into the art, culture and fashion of Venice.  Another proposal involves having cruise ships arrive throughout the week instead of having eight or nine each only on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  Another idea involves building a new cruise ship terminal outside of the lagoon in a nearby area, along with other transportation links by subway through the lagoon.


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