As travel picks up again in Venice, the famously over-touristed city is moving ahead with plans to introduce a booking system for all visitors and a new entry fee of up to €10 (£8.30 / USD$11) for day-trippers.
Venice’s main tourist draws, including Piazza San Marco and Palazzo Ducale, were thronged with people this Easter weekend as the lagoon city inched closer towards pre-pandemic visitor numbers, recording a peak of 160,000 on Saturday, April 16.
Overtourism has been a longstanding problem in Venice as visitors pile in faster than the medieval city’s delicate infrastructure can cope. In the lead-up to the pandemic, Venice’s struggle with overtourism was reaching crisis point with the city recording 30 million visitors in 2019, with many entering for just one day.
In order to ease the crowds and keep locals happy, authorities have been looking at a range of measures including a new booking system to regulate the number of people entering the city.
How to use Venice’s pre-booking system
Set to launch in June as part of a pilot project, the system will require people to book a visit to Venice in advance. Once booked, visitors will receive a QR code that can be scanned at electric turnstiles at Venice’s main access points.
The entry fee won’t kick in until January when the booking system will require day-trippers (people who don’t stay overnight) to pay a single fee that could reach up to €10 (£8.30 / $11) at peak times, including summer. On quiet days it could drop to €3 ($3.40) but it will generally be around €6 ($6.80) during off-season.
Tourists are returning to Venice © Claudio Stocco/Shutterstock
“The experimental phase begins in June, when day tourists will be invited to book through a website that is being completed by the council,” Simone Venturini, Venice’s tourism councillor, told La Repubblica. “Those who book will receive incentives, such as discounts on entering museums. To determine the access fee, we will set a maximum threshold of 40,000 or 50,000 visitors a day.”
Who has to pre-book entry to Venice?
Essentially everyone. Residents and their relatives, children under six, and people staying at least one night in local hotels will not have to pay an entry fee but they will have be required to sign up to the system, according to the Guardian.
All residents, workers and students that come and go through Venice on a daily basis will have the virtual key to the turnstiles through an app on their smartphones, and day-trippers will fill the remaining spots each day by booking their entrance. If the maximum threshold is reached on any given day, day-trippers will be turned away.
“There is a physical limitation on the number of people that can be in the city at the same time,” Marco Bettini, director of Venis, the IT company that created the booking system, told Reuters last year.
“We don’t want to leave anyone behind or stop people from coming to Venice. We want people to book in advance, tell us where they want to go, what they want to visit, in order to provide a better quality of service.”
Venice’s other measures to manage overtourism
It’s another cog in an ambitious and heavily monitored system that tracks the comings and goings of people in Venice. Last year, a network of cameras, sensors and mobile phone data was installed in the city to keep track of visitor numbers and information.
The idea is that if crowds start to build up in one tourist hotspot, authorities can temporarily restrict access to it until the crowds ease, in the meantime diverting people elsewhere so as not to block pedestrian traffic. Officials say the tracking system gives them a clearer picture of the number of people passing through and allows them to predict when certain areas will get busy. They insist it’s done “in absolute respect for privacy”.
The move follows Venice formally banning cruise ships from the historic city center last April after UNESCO warned the city about the “damage caused by a steady stream of cruise ships”.
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