For the vast majority of travelers who plan vacations in Italy each year, the way their trip will affect their host city will probably never cross their minds. They're shelling out big bucks in order to visit top-tier world heritage destinations like Venice, Paris and Amsterdam, so naturally they're inclined to believe that their trip will be improving the local economy because they're spending money there. But what many never consider are the negative affects their presence can bring to a city.
Jaded tourists & an agitated local population
Conservationists have warned about the severe impact of floodwaters on Venice for years, but recently, the warnings have become directed toward the annual flood of tourists. Venice's overall appeal is cheapened by the hurried tourists who come in, take a few photos and leave, without taking the time to appreciate the city on a deeper level.
You see it everywhere in Venice and other popular destinations, especially during the summer: jaded tourists sitting on the steps of historic buildings and bridges - texting, eating, littering and being generally disinterested in their surroundings. Nothing angers locals more than seeing their cities treated with such little respect, but it's easy to understand why this happens. Visitors are likely hot, uncomfortable and tired because they've crammed a full week's worth of sightseeing endeavors into one long, drawn-out day. This type of hurried travel wreaks havoc on Venice's delicate ecology and architecture, and because a lot of Venice's most popular attractions are free, visitors don't leave behind the financial footprint that's needed to help local tourism officials neutralize their impact.
Tourism's double-edged sword
The reasons for traveling are infinite and there is much to be said about immersing yourself in the traditions and values of another culture. At least, that's the overall goal when you're in the comfort of your own home planning your trip. Nobody intends to conduct themselves rudely while traveling, but once you've actually arrived in the city, it's easy to get caught up in the fast paced hustle of trying to see everything as quickly - and inexpensively - as possible. This is what many travel experts refer to as "tourism's double-edged sword", as this method of tourism often leads to missing the quintessential meaning of travel and results in an overall exploitation of local heritage.
It would be an understatement to say that it's ironic that over the years the very travelers the city of Venice depended on and shaped its economy around are presently doing more harm than good, while the number of Ventians living in the city is steadily decreasing because of the effects of mass tourism. There's no denying the fact that something has to be done to create a balance.
Limited access days, city entrance fees or improved tourism management?
As a traveler, it's your right to visit new places, but it's also your responsibility to be prepared for what you're traveling into, and be accountable for your actions while there. Simply being present and showing even basic levels of appreciation and respect for your surroundings will be a monumental start. Avoiding peak travel seasons and jam-packed itineraries are great ways to make the most of even the shortest trip to Venice, and shopping and dining at locally owned establishments are easy and effective ways to stimulate the local economy.
In terms of the local government regulating tourism in Venice, there are several ideas circulating as to what can be done to help protect and preserve this delicate destination from the huge surge of annual visitors. Ideas range from improved tourism management and more aggressive tourism guidelines, to instating city entrance fees, increasing local accommodation taxes and even limiting the amount of visitors allowed access to the city at one time. The end result is still unclear, but it's everyone's goal to protect the city of Venice and keep it from collapsing under the weight of increased tourist traffic, while also improving the quality of tourism overall.