Venice, Italy has added a tourist tax, joining heavily visited cities around the world, but it won’t stop at tourism.
Venice adds tourist tax
In an effort to protect the residents of the City of Venice and the unique ecosystem, the City Council has voted to implement a tourist tax from January 1, 2023. The levy is designed to target over 90% visitors and will vary depending on occupancy.
“Day-trippers will need to register online on the day they plan to visit and pay a fee ranging from 3 euros to 10 euros per person, depending on the time of year and the density of the city, the AP reported. Those who do not pay the tax risk a fine of up to 300 euros (or $315).
Interestingly, the northern Italian city will charge via a website, but since the city has no gates, they may ask visitors for proof of payment. Other Italian cities have added the tax via hotels, but this will be unique as it is only incurred via the website and requires visitors to be both informed and diligent if they wish to visit Venice.
Overtourism is a real concern, especially in Venice
Amsterdam charges a similar fee but has added a €3/day flat rate on top of a 7% hotel tax. The European Tourism Association (ETOA) analyzed these rising fees across the continent:
“ETOA reported that tourist taxes in Europe were increasing, only nine of the 28 EU member states – including many in northern Europe – did not charge tourist taxes. These were: Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Sweden and the United Kingdom. – HotelManagement.net
The rich history of Venice, the charm of its water taxis, the Bridge of Sighs and the bell towers attract nearly 20 million visitors from all over the world each year. Unlike other destinations, the island built on silt is supported by man-made elevation systems designed to combat the high water (high water, tide) of the Venetian lagoon. This leads to frequent flooding in St. Mark’s Square (and St. Mark’s Basilica) and a general feeling that any trip to Venice might be the last to see it as it was.
To be clear, the island isn’t sinking due to overtourism, but that doesn’t help. Millions of visitors to the small island also put a strain on other resources, as visitors outnumber residents 2:1.
More effective measures can be found in Bhutan, which charges visitors to the small mountainous nation $200-250/day. Galapagos requires a licensed and expensive tour guide. Maya Bay (featured in the film, The beach) has been closed to visitors for some time.
The negative effects of overtourism are real. They can include environmental degradation, high costs to residents, and damage to infrastructure and assets. It can also damage the image of the destination for those who find the crowds, long waits and a generally unpleasant visiting experience.
Tourist taxes do not work
Adding a €3-10 fee to enter Venice won’t deter North Americans from flying 4,000-7,000 miles with patterns in St. Mark’s Square. Likewise, Japanese tourists traveling even further afield won’t miss an opportunity to see the serene city. Amsterdam added a similar tax years ago, €8/day for visitors was added to cruise arrivals. But on a cruise priced between $2,500 and $4,500/person, who will notice €8 and more, would it be enough to exclude Amsterdam itineraries?
Of course not.
If the number of tourists is not reduced by these fees, they are either too low or unnecessary. So why have them? I hope it has become abundantly clear that these cities are seizing the perfect opportunity. They appreciate the image of doing something for the citizens, it’s environmentally friendly (fewer tourists, less waste, less carbon emissions spent) but above all, deeper pockets. After all, who keeps the tourist tax money? It is not returned to citizens, although some may return in the form of expanded municipal benefits.
Regarding Amsterdam and its efficiency, the same link used above indicates that Amsterdam expects growth to continue to increase by 50% by 2030 despite the charges.
Venice, Italy adds a tourist tax, but this is unlikely to have a positive effect on Piazza Di San Marco. Tourist taxes rarely work unless they are high enough, but they are effective in generating revenue for the municipality which may or may not be spent to actually reduce tourism. In the case of the Venice tourist tax, it is particularly difficult for the tourist to know that it exists, how to pay and demonstrate that it has been paid and then applied by the Venetian authorities. It seems even less likely to succeed than other attempts.
What do you think? Are tourist taxes a sufficient model to deter tourists? In the specific model of Venice, do you think this will help to combat overtourism?