Tourism has become a serious threat to the city of Venice
The telling fact is that day trippers now outnumber both overnight visitors and people who call Venice home. The rise in cruise ship tourism over the last 15 years has meant that of the 20 million people who visit Venice each year, only half sleep there. Hotel stays have dropped by two-thirds over the past 25 years.
Each day, more than 60,000 people visit Venice – more than the entire population of the city. Of those, an increasing number are from cruise ships and it is feared that the large number of visitors is damaging the city whose economy is based around them. The huge water-bound hotels drop their thousands of tourists every day into Venice’s narrow streets. The cruise passengers spend welcome money in the shops and cafés in the city, but by sundown they have disappeared back to their on-board buffets and some commentators have described the city as a ghost town at nightfall.
Tourism has been described as a double-edged sword for Venice. UNESCO claims that cruise ships in Venice are particularly damaging because of the fragile structure of the city. They say the ships cause tides that erode the foundations of buildings, contribute to pollution and have an impact on the cityscape as they dwarf the city’s monuments. Another, very worrying effect, is that more tourists, in a limited amount of space, are forcing residents out.
The issue of tourism making life difficult for local residents is not a new one, but residents do feel that things have been getting worse in recent years.
Since the 1950s, Venice’s population has fallen by more than two-thirds. More and more Venetians have left for towns such as Mestre on the mainland, leaving Venice as a city only for the tourists.
Residents are becoming increasingly frustrated by the situation. Up to six cruise ships a day now berth in Venice and offload their tourists just for one day. However there are of course many economic benefits to be gained. Venice’s economy depends almost entirely on tourism. Venice needs the tourists but in many ways those same tourists are also destroying the city they come to visit.
There are no signs that the problem will be solved in the near future but it seems the only way to make a degree of progress is for the local representatives to get together with the big cruise companies to try to work out some solutions. Otherwise, many are worried that Venice will become like Disneyland – just a park for the tourists without any residents.