Ratified by the 2019 Italian budget law, Venice now has the ability to impose a tax on the millions of day-trippers coming to the fragile city. Hoteliers and politicians support the initiative, stating it will result in a more livable city and better services for visitors.
VENICE, Italy—Hoteliers are supportive of new tourism taxes that now can be imposed by Venice’s city government, according to sources.
A tourism tax ranging from €2.50 ($2.86) per day to €10 ($11.46) per day, depending on the numbers of tourists present, can be introduced by Venetian authorities in what it claims is an income-generating initiative aimed at protecting a fragile, popular, water-borne city and reinvesting funds into the city’s economic base.
Sources said the tax is likely to be introduced this summer.
Similar schemes are being touted in such European mass-tourism destinations as Barcelona and Edinburgh, but Venice is the first to act on such an idea.
The mayor of Florence, another very popular Italian tourism destination, wants the Italian government to allow other cities to follow Venice’s lead.
Guests staying at hotels in Venice will be exempt from the tax. Also exempt will be guests in the municipality of Venice, which contains Venice’s airport and the mainland town of Mestre, site of numerous budget and economy hotels serving those seeking cheaper accommodation and ease of access to Venice.
Guests at hotels in Venice already pay a hotel tax of between £3.50 ($4.01) and €5 ($5.73) per night, capped at five nights.
Residents of Veneto, the region that includes Venice, will not pay the new tax either, which leaves the burden on guests staying in such cities as Padua and Vicenza and in coastal hotels close to Venice but outside the municipality.
Hoteliers in those markets are not happy, according to sources, but those in Venice are supportive, said Lorenza Lain, GM of the Hotel Cà Sagredo and a board member of the Venice Hoteliers Association, referred to in Italy by its Italian initials AVA.
“Venice should not be an open city. It is a protected, World Heritage site. The majority of Venetians are very happy. Hoteliers are very happy. We’ve been struggling for this for years,” said Lain, who compared the fragility of Venice to that of the low-lying Indian Ocean islands nation of The Maldives.
The number of tourists to Venice, most of them being day-trippers, is estimated at 30 million a year, or approximately 80,000 per day, which is approximately 25,000 more than the permanent population of the Venetian islands, although not the municipality.
“Venice is a very expensive city to live in because of the maintenance, because Venice is losing residents. There is a problem with mass tourism. I am very for an entrance tax for those not sleeping in Venice. Until 10 years ago, we did not suffer from the same number of cruises and day tourists,” Lain said.
“Even if guests stay at a 1-star hotel in Venice, still they will leave the city in a better place.”
Since mid-2017, Venice also has restricted new hotel development.
Barcelona similarly has a moratorium on new hotels in certain areas of the Spanish city.
François Droulers, president of tourism association Confindustria Turismo Venezia and founder of DHotels (which owns two hotels, including the Four Points by Sheraton Venice Mestre), agreed it is right for tourists visiting from nearby pay a little more.
“In principle, I have a positive view on the new tax, as the municipality is very keen on implementing a strategy to have a positive balance in the city. It is investing in infrastructure to preserve the city,” Droulers said.
“We need to position the destination, to assist artisans, the smaller producers. … Those who do not add value have ruined the experience. Higher-spend tourists create benefits for everyone.”
Droulers and Lain said most day-trippers bring their own lunches and spend very little on anything else.
“The bottom line, though, is if you have to pay a small fee to help maintain the city and guarantee a good experience to everyone, well, that is not a major issue,” Droulers said.
Mara Manente, director of the International Center of Studies on the Tourist Economy at Venice Ca Foscari University, underlined the tax has not yet been imposed.
“The tax is an opportunity to manage the city and provide better services,” Manente said.
“The tax will also provide more analysis, so it is an instrument to improve monitoring on services and how to pay for them,” she said, adding the tax will also be felt by those coming to Venice for the day from other, nearby countries such as Croatia and Slovenia.
Manente said there is a risk that a charge could have the negative effect of Venice becoming more like a theme park.
But “we have to consider this initiative as a unique tool, one that reconsiders tourism in Venice and favors craftspeople to stay, encourages people to live here, helps start-up companies and strengthens the economic base. If they do not develop opportunities for other activities, then tourism is the only one, and it is one that is difficult to fight against,” she said.
“Tourism cannot be managed if the current economic situation is not taken into account.”
One problem in Venice, sources said, is that tourists all do the same thing while there, regardless if they come in for the day via train, boat or cruise ship.
The city needs to encourage visitors to investigate other parts of the city, Manente said.
“The space (in Venice) tourists use is very limited, about 30% to 35%, and also the time they are here, between five and seven hours,” she said.
“A lot of initiatives can be done to distribute tourism to other parts of the city, but the problem is that the residents worry that the congestion could go everywhere, so there is some resistance.”
Manente said Airbnb rentals are aiding distribution and adds a different type of guest, although Cà Sagredo’s Lain disputes that claim.
“Airbnb is increasing the number of beds, not distributing them,” Lain said.
Another tourist group causing anxiety are those coming on cruise ships.
“From the point of view of a 5-star hotel, a cruise can be a resource, but Venice is an expensive port to visit, and as is the case of other ports such as St. Barts, you cannot get in on a cheaper cruise line. So it a question of the size of the cruise line and the impact on the ecosystem,” Lain said.
Sources said quite often cruise-ship passengers spend little, too, as meals are eaten on board.
Droulers said the effect of cruise ships on Venice needs to be discussed at greater length.
“(The cruise-ship industry) is an important part of tourism. … I’d prefer cruise ships be moved to the port of Maghera (also in the municipality of Venice). There is a lot of politics involved,” he said.
Manente said “in the long term, taxes will reduce the number of day tourists.”
She said by 2021 there should be some real information as to the effect of any taxes.
According to STR, the parent company of Hotel News Now, preliminary data for full-year 2018 for the islands of Venice shows an average daily rate of €326.84 ($374.59), a 5.8% drop from the same period in 2017, and revenue per available room of €215.82 ($247.35), a decline of 12.1%. Mestre, for the same period, posted ADR of €79.75 ($91.40), a decrease of 3.2%, and RevPAR of €62.05 ($71.11), a decrease of 3.9%.
Occupancy for full-year 2018 was 66% in Venice and 77.8% in Mestre, a year-over-year decline of 6.6% and 0.7%, respectively, STR data shows.