Overcrowding, flooding, climate change, oh my!
Aakruthi Karri contemplates on the issues concerning tourism in Venice.
Venice is known as the city of merchant trade. The 118 islands including Murano and Burano and lakes in the Adriatic sea would bring various goods from the East to Europe, using canals as roads. This had continued until the 19th Century, when there was a sudden shift towards tourism. Consequently, the tourism industry was developed, and later on, it became a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Prior to the 21st Century, Venice was considered to be an expensive city, but recently, an expansion has taken place in the form of mass-tourism. It occurred through allowing tour buses and cruise ships in the roads and lakes of the city. A city known for the use of Gondolas, which are wooden boats with flat bottoms and 11 metres in length, with a weight of 600kg, now has reduced space to travel, therefore limiting the historical feel to the city, as well as causing air and noise pollution.
On 2nd June 2019, a cruise ship collided with the dock, flooding an area of the city. Many believe that this could be a reason for the debate on whether to provide a restriction on the number of tourists or oblige them to pay additional taxes when visiting; this would be in the form of a ‘visitor levy.’ Due to the incident being considered as tourist “overpopulation”, the money collected will be used to pay for any repairs which the local authorities deem to be beneficial for the city.
If nothing is done about the number of tourists, then Venice could be irreparably damaged
To make matters worse, climate change is causing the sea levels around the city to increase. Certain buildings and pavements are being flooded, in addition to the overcrowding of tourist sights such as Rialto bridge and St Mark’s Square, this could be a recipe for disaster. By having around 20 million tourists per year visiting these landmarks, this means that there will be a big population in the tiny streets and alleyways. This causes pressure that leads to cracks which damages the architecture of the old and beautiful buildings.
Furthermore, a rather detrimental impact is that there could be an increase in drunken behaviour classed as disruption or vandalism. This occurred in Amsterdam, in which the Dutch authorities had responded by placing a tax for misbehaving tourists which is expected to lead to a restriction.
The overcrowding also has an impact on the local population, mainly because it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to commute in the city and complete errands in their daily life. This is not the only source of tension, for this occurs alongside the increasing rents. If nothing is done about the number of tourists, then Venice could be irreparably damaged, potentially losing the title of a World Heritage Site, due to the overcrowding on historical roads and buildings. Hence, the main industry could die, leaving the city in major debts.
In order to revive the city, Venice can place more regimented restrictions on the scale of tourists; this will allow the city to grow economically and ensure that the local population and tourists live in harmony.