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Venice adds turnstiles to limit tourists

Alistair Walsh with dpa, AP, AFP
April 28, 2018

The World Heritage-listed city is using a busy long weekend as an experiment before the summer season kicks off. Mass tourism has taken its toll on the lagoon city, but it relies on the income.

Crowd of tourists in Venice's St. Mark's square.
Image: Reuters/M. Silvestri

The city of Venice on Saturday unveiled new turnstiles designed to limit the massive flows of tourists in its streets ahead of a busy long weekend.

The World Heritage-listed city relies on tourism income, but residents have long complained about being overrun by tourists.

Read more: Overtourism — where will it take us?

Venice's battle against cruise ships

How the turnstiles operate

According to an official ordinance signed earlier this week.

  • Over the long weekend, tourists will be turned away from Piazzale Roma, parts of the Santa Lucia train station and Strada Nuova.
  • Access will only be granted to residents and regular visitors holding a Venezia Unica card.
  • Tourists heading to the Cannaregio district and to the part of the Castello district bordering San Giovanni e Paolo will be allowed to transit through.
  • The Ponte della Costituzione bridge will have gates to limit numbers. AP reported that by Saturday afternoon the gates remained open.
  • If crowds are too large, tourist boats cannot dock in front of St. Mark's Square.
  • Police can implement new restrictions if the areas become too congested.

Read more: How to avoid the tourist masses in Venice

Obligation to maintain security

"I see nothing wrong" in the turnstiles, Mayor Luigi Brugnaro told ANSA news agency. He said tourists are important guests, but that he had a responsibility for the security of the residents of Venice.

Local paper La Nuova Venezia reported some resistance from shopkeepers and major complaints from tourist boat operators forced to offload passengers in less-than-ideal locations.

Police commander Marco Agostini told the paper he welcomed the experiment as a necessary measure.

European problem: Popular cities around Europe have complained about the burden of overtourism, with neighborhood associations from 14 southern cities banding together to fight against mass tourism. Activists complain that mass tourism causes rents to soar, local shops to disappear, creates low wage jobs and generates pollution. Last year, Venice started the #EnjoyRespectVenezia campaign to encourage visitors to explore lesser-known parts of the city.

Read more: Citizens protest on Spanish island of Majorca against mass tourism

How many tourists visit Venice? More than 20 million visitors visit Venice each year, compared to its permanent population of 55,000. The crush has given rise to slogans such as such as "Tourists Go Home" and "Tourists Are Terrorists" being scrawled across the city and has even prompted UNESCO to consider placing Venice on its list of World Heritage Sites in danger.

Temporary measure: The measures imposed will initially only last for the weekend, but the city government is under pressure to manage crowd numbers throughout the busy summer season.

Read more: Galapagos fights temptation of mass tourism

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