Did you know a lobbying group in Venice once mourned the city’s death, when the local population dropped below 60,000? It’s true. Once a city hundreds of thousands called home, Venice is now a destination with hardly any locals, as Venetians run anywhere that takes them in the opposite direction of mass tourism. But while the city rests, plans of a great future are the talk of the town, and they don’t involve nearly as many visitors.
In the record breaking year of 2019, Venice, the small city with hardly any ‘streets’ took in 30 million visitors. There were just a few problems: only a fifth stayed overnight, and until new taxation legislation passed, hardly any contributed to the local economy in a meaningful way. Welcome to travel in the age of Instagram, where it’s all about that “one” photo.
Lobbying groups throughout Italy, and even outside are looking to create a new Venice, with Venetian people as the central focus. The city wants to bring back young, educated residents with strong educational programs, and also to highlight the unique brand of life Venice offers. Melissa Conn of Save Venice told CNN “We need to focus on the Made in Venice brand, to promote local artisans and bring that Venice back and offer a better quality of life to the people who live here and who visit.”
The global pandemic gave Venice time to pause, and consider moving away from a dependence on cruise ships, a move which many destination seeking to attract both fewer, and wealthier guests are also mulling. The city is looking to rid its streets of tourist tat, designed to extract a few dollars from the 4/5 people who simply “day trip” by boat or land, and instead reintroduce the artisans and styles which make Venice iconic.
In 2019, Venice approved a tax on day trippers in an attempt to protect natural resources such as canals. Anyone not staying as an overnight guest would be forced to pay €3 to enter the city center, a number which is only expected to grow in the near future.
As of May 18th, 2020, Italy has reopened churches, restaurants, cafes and beaches, signalling a return of travel. With a global economy in the dumps, the question will be whether or not the city of Venice can turn down easy money from a return of day trippers and cruise travelers, or whether the city will endure and push on for a higher caliber of tourism with a focus on artisan driven goods, overnight guests and serenity in the city by the sea.