Reports indicate that too much tourism, especially high-impact, low revenue cruise tourism, is affecting the quality of Venice as a unique, must-see destination.
Recently, about two thirds of Venice was underwater with heavy rain and winds resulting in the sixth highest tide levels since 1872. Even though the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the status has not deterred cruise ship tourism from threatening to overwhelm the sinking city. Figures indicate that each day, more than 60,000 people visit Venice, which is more than the population of the city.
The biggest damage to the city comes from cruise tourists and their activities, with cruise tourism increasing by about 439 per cent in the past 15 years. Authorities are not able to do much about it because the city depends on tourism for its survival.
Peter Debrine, head of the World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme at UNESCO, said, ‘Tourism is a double-edged sword. You can’t have those kind of numbers come into a site and not have a negative impact. There are obviously many benefits to tourism. Venice is a unique case and there needs to be a balance. We cannot demonize the cruise industry. Local people own the real estate. UNESCO’s concern is of course the protection of heritage but with have to do it in collaboration with the tourism industry.’
Observers have long been accusing cruise ships of eroding the fragile structure of the city through tides that are caused when the ships land. Further, they also contribute to pollution and dwarf the city’s monuments.
The demographic situation arising out of tourism is unique in Venice with locals leaving the city for mainland Italy as the count of tourists increased. Since the 1950s, Venice’s population has fallen by more than two-thirds and now stands at a new low of 58,483.