Assaulted by 24 million tourists a year, Venice is to charge visitors a tax up to 10 euros each in a move approved by the Italian government.
The new measure, which will bring in tens of millions of euros a year in revenue to the World Heritage city, was contained in Italy’s 2019 budget, which was passed at the weekend after months of acrimonious wrangling with Brussels.
Venetians have long complained that day-trippers and cruise ship passengers enjoy all that the lagoon city has to offer without making much of an economic contribution.
Of the 24 million tourists who visit Venice each year, around 15 million are day-trippers.
Those that bring their own food do not even spend money in the city’s bars, restaurants and cafes.
They will now be hit with the new charge, which will is likely to be included in the cost of their bus, train or cruise ship ticket and then passed onto the city authorities.
The tax will range from €2.50 to €10 euros per person, depending on whether visitors arrive in low or high season.
“This is a historic day,” said Luigi Brugnaro, Venice’s mayor, who explained that the extra money would be put towards meeting the elevated costs of maintaining and cleaning the city.
Venice’s peculiar geography – a network of canals and pedestrian alleyways – means that services such as rubbish disposal are up to 40% more expensive than in other Italian cities.
In high season, council workers have to empty public bins every half an hour, such is the amount of rubbish generated by the tourist hordes.
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Restoring palazzos and churches is also a logistical challenge, involving transporting materials by boat and squeezing cranes and other heavy equipment into tight spaces.
“In this way we can start addressing Venice’s many extra expenses. That will mean a saving for Venetians,” said Mr Brugnaro.
The council now has two months to discuss how exactly to implement the new tax.
Claudio Scarpa, the head of the Venetian Association of Hoteliers, said: “Finally, day-trippers will start paying their way. People who arrive in the morning and leave in the evening, contributing little economically but imposing a heavy strain on services, need to understand that not everything is free. This is a victory for the city.”
Bernabo Bocca, the president of Federalberghi, a national hoteliers’ group, said: “Our historic city centres are museums, and as with museums, it is right that visitors should pay to see them.”
Increasingly smothered by mass tourism, Venice has debated for years whether to introduce a ticketing system and to limit the number of people who are allowed to visit each day.
That has not yet happened, but the visitor tax is a step in that direction.
It is hoped that it will reduce the number of day-trippers who descend on the city, swarm the most famous sites such as the Rialto Bridge and St Mark’s Square, and then leave.
The tourist tax will replace an existing hotel tax that is levied on tourists who stayed overnight in Venice, but which excluded day-trippers and cruise ship passengers.
The hotel tax brought in €34 million last year.
Italians living on the mainland who commute to Venice for work will be excluded from paying the entry tax, as will students who are studying in the lagoon city.
As places like Venice and Florence wrestle with how to manage the impact of mass tourism, a cliff-top village in the south of the country caused controversy by charging visitors to enter its historic centre.
Over Christmas and until January 6, tourists have to pay €5 (£4.40) to enter the cobbled heart of Polignano a Mare, a village of whitewashed houses and churches perched on top of vertical cliffs in the southern region of Puglia.
The number of tourists heading for Italy is on the rise, driven in part by the terrorism attacks, civil strife and political instability that have afflicted other Mediterranean destinations such as Tunisia, Turkey and Egypt.