Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy New Year 2019 from Venice, Italy! (And what about that new arrival tax?)

Happy New Year from Venice, Italy - Photo by Cat Bauer

(Venice, Italy) We start the New Year in Venice with the news that a new law has passed, and day-tripping tourists will now be charged a fee from €2.5 to €5 -- up to €10 during the highest season -- to enter the city. It is not yet clear exactly how the fee will be implemented, but anything to ease the burden off residents, to me, is a good thing.

Last year the living situation in Venice was unbearable. Cruise ships, busloads and boatloads full of day-trippers dumped off people in Venice for just the day with more gusto than ever. These somnambulant masses moved through the city in huge hordes led by unorganized tour guides, and clogged up the calli, bought next to nothing, ate fast food, and left tons of trash in their wake. Their goal seemed to be to take selfies to post on social media and score more likes. If these masses paid an arrival tax, it would help to compensate for the destruction they cause.

Luigi Brugnaro, the Mayor of Venice, said the money for the arrival tax will go to increasing the amount of work for trash collectors and street sweepers, the overtime of firefighters and to reduce taxes to encourage more residents to stay put in town and stop the exodus from the historic center. “The arrival tax is now law,” he said. “We will establish a balanced and shared regulation that protects those who live, study and work in the territory.”

Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro accompanies workers to collect trash - Photo: Città di Venezia
Due to its unique structure, trash collection in Venice must be done by hand and by boat. It is extremely expensive, and residents have long paid far too much to keep the city clean. There are just over 50,000 residents and about 30 million tourists every year.

The trash collectors in Venice are like family; they come to our doors every morning, rain, shine or acqua alta, with a cheerful greeting to start the day. This has been a pet project for Brugnaro, who wanted to cut down on the amount of seagulls, mice and rats that feast on the garbage. The result has been that, for two years in a row, Venice has scored first place of all metropolitan cities in Italy for separating trash into recyclables; dry waste is transformed into solid fuel and used to produce electricity.

Do I agree with everything that Brugnaro does? No, but I have seen with my own eyes that the city is much cleaner under the new system, and if the mayor does something positive for Venice, it must be acknowledged.

Unlike the dramatic headlines of flooded Venice that blare across the media, this type of positive news never seems to reach the international press, nor is it a topic of discussion by out-of-towners on social media who prefer to quibble over garbled definitions of the "arrival tax" in the English-language press.

Is New York City an "open city?" Is San Francisco? If you want to enter New York City, every vehicle must pay Port Authority a toll every single time it enters; without an E-ZPass it is $15. (It is free to get out:-) That sure sounds like an "admission fee" to me. In addition, NYC has many hotel taxes - Occupancy fee, Occupancy tax, Hotel unit fee - going toward this and that. Or take San Francisco -- it costs between $4.75 to $8.00 to go over the Golden Gate Bridge, which turns a profit. In addition, hotel fees in San Francisco include a 14% occupancy tax, a 0.195% "California Tourism" fee plus a 1.5 to 2.25% "Tourism Improvement District" assessment. Why should Venice be any different? I see no reason why Venice cannot charge day-trippers an "arrival tax," "entry toll," "admission fee," or whatever you want to call it in English for the added costs the huge influx of tourists add to the maintenance of this city. (I would imagine that you would still be able to jog over the causeway and enter for free.) 

In any event, I really hope it works.  It is one step to prioritizing those of us who actually have real lives here in Venice, with real problems, not faraway fantasies conjured up by romance novels and picture books. Venice is the most beautiful city in the world, but it is because a lot of people work hard to keep it that way, and, in reality, that costs money.

May your New Year be bold, bright and beautiful with lots of positive energy and a renewed spirit of cooperation!

Happy New Year from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

1 comment:

  1. We start the New Year in Venice with the news that a new law has passed, and day-tripping tourists will now be charged a fee from €2.5 to €5 -- up to €10 during the highest season -- to enter the city. It is not clear yet exactly how the fee will be implemented, but anything to ease the burden off residents, to me, is a good thing.

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