Venice to start charging for entry

VENICE: The Venice council has voted to impose an entrance fee on day-trippers to help pay for the upkeep of the much-visited lagoon city, setting a precedent that other tourist hotspots are watching closely, the mayor said on Wednesday.

Around 25 million tourists pour into Venice each year, of whom around 14 million spend just one day there. Many take picnics with them, bringing no income to local businesses.

Councillors overwhelmingly endorsed the entrance fee at a meeting on Tuesday, saying day-trippers would now have to pay €3 (S$4.60) each this year to enter Venice, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

The sum will rise to between €6 and €10 from early 2020, depending on whether tourists come in high or low season.

"This is unique in the world, the first time that anyone has dared to do anything this important to help manage a city," said Mayor Luigi Brugnaro, who has championed the scheme.

"Other cities across Europe have already called us to ask for information about what we are doing. We are acting as a trailblazer," he added.

The city council has not spelt out how they will collect the money.

Exempted from the fee will be tourists who spend the night in local hotels, which already apply visitor taxes to their rates, and children under six.

Venice's population has declined rapidly in recent decades from 175,000 after World War II to about 50,000 today. Remaining residents complain bitterly that their city is being overrun by tourists while they have to pick up the bill.

Mr Brugnaro said the city was paying some €30 million a year more on cleaning its city centre than in comparable historic centres, given the huge numbers of visitors. - REUTERS