Venice & Over-Tourism
Venice & Over-tourism: A few days ago Joe Minihane from CNN Travel wrote asking me to answer some questions regarding OverTourism in Venice.
I was glad to give my personal opinion and you can read his article here.
Of course Joe was interviewing many other people, so only a couple of lines from my interview were quoted. But I though I would like to share with you the whole interview!
First and foremost I would like to be clear that I am not a politician, an engineer, a professor of urbanistic or an intellectual of any sort, I am a food blogger, giving food tours and cooking classes in Venice, a city that I adore. I do not live in the city itself, but in the mainland, even though I experience every day the effect of over tourism.
The interview on Over-Tourism in Venice
The first question Joe asked was:
How is Venice dealing with the growing influx of tourists?
Ahh…rather than how, the question should be: Is Venice dealing with it?
At the moment and honestly?
To me and many other locals, it does not look like it; on the contrary, it seems the authorities are trying to increase the influx even more, by building huge accommodation complexes near the train station of Mestre, to welcome even more visitors.
Instead of actually trying to deal with the already big numbers which every day descend upon the city and all the problems related with them (over-crowding in the focal points of the city, a lack of affordable housing for locals, the closing of locals artisans replaced by cheap fake “madeinitaly” shops), it seems to us all that the city is only looking at the income which will be generated by higher numbers of visitors. A very short-sighted view.
We should concentrate on supporting local artisans, which are the history of Venice, by helping them with special rent properties agreement so they can afford to stay in the city and promote the real “Made In Italy”, the proper “By Hand”, giving clear information to the visitors of Venice, so they understand that every time they purchase something from a local authenticl artisan, they are helping the city.
There should be a map of the city with the locations of the artisans, made by the city, given for free in every hotel and accommodation, free for the artisans to be in it too. Artisans are an asset for the city, but for the moment it looks like they are just a nuisance to the politicians.
Artisans give prestige to the city and help visitors to be responsible tourists.
We should bring back the system that the Republic of Venice had in place for centuries, where two shops selling the same kind of products must be at a certain determined distance between each other, to promote fair business, allowing them both to thrive from their work without slashing prices rather than ending in a spiraling unfair never ending competition, which bring the quality down, leaving also the end user dissatisfied.
The second question was:
What has the affect been on your work as a food guide in the city?
This is a very interesting question. First of all let’s remember there are two types of people visiting Venice. Those who only stay for 1-2 night maximum, in a rush to do everything, ending up doing nothing, because they are trying to cram too much into a very short period of time, and those who, instead, really want to see Venice away from the crowds spending their time learning about the culture, history and gastronomy of the city.
While the first type is on the increase, the second one is decreasing, because people are put off about the idea of coming to the city and finding themselves surrounded by all the crowds. So they opt to go somewhere else in Italy, where it is quieter.
My food tours and cooking lessons are aimed to the second; they are slow experiences, to savor Venice as a local, not as a tourist. They cannot be rushed.
So, obviously, I have seen a huge decrease on requests and bookings compared to the past. People, who come for 1 night, do not have time to take a long walking food tour and even less time to take a proper cooking class, which always ends with a long lunch!
Joe’s third question was:
How many Venetians have left the city of Venice due to over tourism?
Well, accordingly to the Registry Office of the Municipality of Venice, the hemorrhage continues slow and unstoppable, I think the count officially reached under 54,000 in the Historic City Centre of Venice last month.
Venice falls by around 1000 units every year, compared to the 175,000 of the 1950s.
And when the residents of a city leave, everything connected to them stops too: local every day stores, like bakeries and greengrocers, the small historic artisan shops and all the community services needed to keep a community running. In their place, every day we see some new souvenirs “10 Euros” shop, selling everything but local Venetian crafts, and an incredible number of new bars and restaurants. All targeted to the tourist and definitely not to the locals.
Also most people are leaving because of the high property rents, since Venetians themselves prefer to rent their properties through Air B&B at much higher profits, rather than to local residents.
The final question was:
Can this issue be dealt with by higher taxes or rerouting cruise ships? Would you be happy to see numbers of visitors restricted?
Honestly, I think tourists are already paying enough taxes to come into the city. I do not think increasing the taxes would change anything. It would not reduce the numbers, or at least, not the numbers of short stay tourists. On the contrary, it would dissuade those who generally stay for over 5 nights to not come, cause it would cost them even more.
I do think the problem of cruise ships has reached a melting point and now something needs to be done. I am not an engineer; I hear so many different opinions on the solutions for the big ships. I do think they should not pass anymore through the Canale of the Giudecca, considering the dangers (as shown on the 2nd June and on 7th July) and the pollution they cause. I realize there is a huge business connected to it and many people would loose their jobs if the cruise ships stopped coming. I think it is time the politicians in the city and those in the government put their hand on their heart, stop and finally talk. Properly. Without any hidden political agenda, but just with the safety of the Venetians and the city of Venice in mind.
It is not going to be an overnight solution, it would need to be carefully studied and I hope for once, that all the people involved in this decision, will put the financial gains aside and find a solution to safeguard the city.
Also I think that rather than concentrating on reducing the number of visitors, we should promote longer stays, educating the visitors (this should be done before they travel and while they travel – with proper promotional educational campaigns on the internet and on site), stimulating tourists to invest in the local economy of the city, buying from local shops, eating local dishes in local restaurants and learning everything they can about Venice even before they set foot in the city.
So, do not stop coming to Venice, please! But be a responsible and educated tourist: prepare yourself before you travel, understand the precarious balance of our city & stay for at least more than 4 days!
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