While people may debate whether Venice, Italy, is a tourist trap, one thing’s for certain: It’s becoming a tourist town.
This year, the number of tourists visiting the lagoon city is expected to reach a record high, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. And that’s happening while the number of full-time residents is dropping. Last year, for the first time in three centuries, Venice’s population fell below 50,000. Most recently, a new report noted that September is the first month ever where the number of beds in hotels and short-term rentals is higher than the number of people who live in Venice.
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“Look at this, it’s out of control,” Venice native Lidia Fersuoch told the WSJ. “We’ve become Italy’s answer to Disneyland.”
Venice has always dealt with an influx of visitors, especially at peak times like the height of summer. But the numbers have increased in recent years, and locals now say that the city is at a tipping point. Businesses that once served residents have closed up shop in favor of souvenir stores and restaurants that appeal to travelers, and some types of doctors are so hard to find that residents have to travel to the Italian mainland for care.
To combat the over-tourism, Venice has taken steps including banning large cruise ships from getting too close to the central islands. Still, local researchers say that when big ships and private yachts travel through the lagoon, they damage the city—although the city council doesn’t agree. And next year, Venice will charge day visitors €5, or about $5.33, to come in during peak times.
Locals don’t think that’s enough, though. One said that the charge is just “a Band-Aid” for the problem. Others would like to see the city support larger measures in favor of locals, such as caps on short-term rentals like Airbnb, incentives for property owners to rent to Venetians, and a limit on constructing new hotels.
Until the city government takes those sorts of steps, locals feel like it’s up to them to make the world aware of their problems, and to keep the city in their hands.
“I fear there’s little hope of saving Venice,” resident Lorenzo Calvelli told the newspaper, “but that doesn’t mean I won’t fight every day.”
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