Venice, one of Italy’s most iconic cities, is facing the risk of being listed as “endangered” by UNESCO due to the overwhelming mass tourism that has plagued the city for years. In fact, the pandemic restrictions easing has only worsened the situation, with a staggering 250% increase in passenger volumes in the first half of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021.
Even before the pandemic, Venice was grappling with high tourism levels, with millions of visitors flocking to the city each year. The consequences of this surge in tourism could be devastating, as the failure to preserve the quality of the city’s historical sites might result in Venice losing its coveted World Heritage status.
This issue caught the attention of UNESCO in 2021, when the organization threatened to downgrade Venice’s status. In response, the city took urgent action by banning cruise ships from traveling through its waters, an important move to appease the World Heritage Committee.
However, official city data reveals a worrying trend. Today, the number of tourist beds in Venice has surpassed the number of residents, signaling the overwhelming impact of mass tourism on the city’s infrastructure and resources.
To address this surge in tourism and alleviate its effects, the city has devised a plan to impose a 5 euro entrance fee for day-trippers on high-traffic days. This initiative will commence in the spring of 2024 and aims to discourage casual tourists from flooding the city. However, critics fear that this measure may inadvertently transform Venice into a cultural theme park, fostering what they call the “Disneyfication” of the city.
Beyond the impacts of tourism, Venice also faces the challenges posed by climate change. The recommendation to label the city as “endangered” by UNESCO highlights the incomplete functionality of the underwater barriers, which are crucial for protecting the city from rising sea levels and flooding.
UNESCO’s concerns extend beyond Venice alone. The organization is also considering designating five other sites as “endangered,” including the breathtaking Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine, and the stunning Kamchatka Volcanoes in Russia’s Far East.
With Venice teetering on the edge of losing its World Heritage status, it is crucial for the city to find sustainable solutions to manage tourism, preserve its cultural fabric, and overcome the challenges posed by climate change. Only through collective efforts and cooperation can the city ensure its long-term survival as a treasured destination for future generations to admire and experience.
“Infuriatingly humble tv expert. Friendly student. Travel fanatic. Bacon fan. Unable to type with boxing gloves on.”