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Closing souvenir shops, Venice’s new bet against mass tourism

The City of the Doges tightens the screw. After the prohibition of certain cruise ships in the lagoon and the reservation (paying) to explore the center, the municipality embarks on a new battle: to get rid of “shops for tourists”.

The City of the Doges enjoys tourism as much as it suffers from it. And it’s not La Repubblica who will say otherwise. “Miniature gondolas, small masks of carnival plastic throughout the year, and then, further on, snack vending machines at 2 euros. This is the image that the shop windows of Venice now offer tourists », describes the Roman daily. Based on this observation, the municipality is preparing to approve a regulation that will prohibit the opening of any new commercial activity deemed low cost in certain historic areas of the city center. During the next three years, “In all areas where there is a lot of pedestrian traffic and where there are protected buildings, there will be no more authorizations to open new businesses that sell low-quality merchandise”reports the Corriere della Sera .

These rules will be even more restrictive in the historic and hypercentral district of Saint-Marc. “It will be prohibited to open new points of sale of masks and non-craft souvenirs, vending machines, laundromats and even grocery stores that sell drinks and snackscontinues the Milanese daily. Only butchers, fishmongers and fruit and vegetable shops will be authorized. »

“A brave choice”

Artisan shops will be preferred. (Here, Fornace Orsoni, the last mosaic producer to have a furnace still active on the island). ERIC MARTIN / Le Figaro Magazine

Although it has not yet been approved, will these regulations be enough to combat overtourism? Maybe not, but the city’s mayor – businessman Luigi Brugnaro – is keen to point it out: it’s about“a courageous choice, unprecedented in Italy”. The measure should, among other things, allow “to counter the sale of bric-a-brac, to focus on quality and to block activities that engage in unfair competition”underlines the aedile on the right in the columns of La Repubblica. It must be said that Venice is particularly endangered by mass tourism. Every year, 30 million tourists visit its historic center and its canals, listed as UNESCO heritage sites. Faced with these incessant comings and goings, the 55,000 inhabitants of the lagoon seek at all costs to stem the flow of visitors and preserve their city. And their anger ended up being heard.

Cruise ships of more than 25,000 tons are no longer allowed to travel on the Giudecca Canal, one of the two main shipping lanes around Saint Mark’s Square. Much to the relief of Venetians. Effective since August 1, 2021, this ban is only a first step in the desire to regulate tourist attendance, since from the summer of 2022, the “Sérénissime” will simply become chargeable. The price? Between €3 and €10 (depending on the season) to visit the historic center and the canals. This should allow the authorities to know the number of visitors who enter each day, thanks to the installation of electronic turnstiles at the various entry points. To believe that the concept of “city museum” would become a reality.

Tourist tax, demarketing… Strategies against overtourism

However, Venice is not the only city to have taken radical measures to preserve its heritage and the environment. Under the combined effect of the health crisis and ecological concerns, more and more destinations are now imposing restrictions on tourists: tourist tax, increase in the price of parking, introduction of paid shuttles, tourist quota, limited length of stay (four hours maximum in Machu Picchu or thirty days on Easter Island, for example)…

Because local authorities are sometimes missing, some tourist sites do not hesitate to play the “demarketing” card. This is the case of the Calanques National Park which, on its website, publishes photos of crowded beaches accompanied by somewhat off-putting texts: “Many images of heavenly coves taken in the Calanques circulate on social networks… But these photos do not show the long walk necessary to access the sites. » A strategy which aims to preserve the environment, the local populations and the travelers themselves, by influencing the choices of the sites visited. Everything is good to limit mass tourism…

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