VENICE, Italy (AP) — A scowling gondolier ferrying 10 tourists at a time across the mouth of Venice’s Grand Canal scolds passengers to sit still and worries about being cut out of a bargain 2 euro fare becomes.

Far from romantic scenes of gondoliers serenading couples as they cruise through Venice’s picturesque canals, the short ride along a crowded gondola is emblematic of the city’s descent into mass tourism.

The historic and fragile lagoon city is not the only one struggling with the influx of tourists in the age of cheap flights. But the stakes are particularly high this week as the UNESCO World Heritage Committee decides whether to add Venice to the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger. A decision could come as early as Thursday.

A clearance would appear as an indictment of the city’s tourism management after it escaped a downgrade two years ago when the Rome government imposed a ban on cruise ships off St. Mark’s Square and in the Giudecca Canal.

“We’re trying to avoid that,” said Michele Zuin, Venice’s top budget official. “But it’s not like we’re slaves to UNESCO.”

The decision comes just days after housing activists announced over the weekend that the number of tourist beds in Venice now exceeds the number of residents, citing official city data. A ticker that updates the number of tourist beds in a bookstore window aims to remind citizens of the alarming trend, playing off of another nearby that counts the declining number of citizens.

Tempers flared at a city council meeting this week when Venice became the first city in the world to charge visitors an entrance fee. Local television clips showed the mayor and a political opponent trading heated insults at the podium as a crowd of concerned citizens spilled into the corridor.

Critics claim the tax was introduced hastily to convey to the UNESCO committee that the city wanted to curb mass tourism. Visitors will be charged a fee of 5 euros per day to enter the city on 30 high-traffic days, to be determined. This is a greatly reduced version of a day tourist tax that was supposed to be introduced before the pandemic hit global tourism.

UNESCO officials have stressed that a downgrade is not intended to be punitive, but rather to alert the global community that more needs to be done to address the problems of a World Heritage site.

The recommendation to downgrade Venice not only refers to the management of mass tourism, but also to the effects of climate change. For example, it points out that the underwater barriers protecting Venice are not yet fully operational.

Venice is one of six locations, including two in war-torn Ukraine, that the committee is officially allowed to classify as at risk.

The other at-risk sites currently being considered are St. Sophia Cathedral in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev; the historical center of Lviv in western Ukraine; the ancient city of Nessebar in Bulgaria; the Diyarbakir Fortress in Turkey; and the Kamchatka volcanoes in the far east of Russia.

Source :

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *