Prominent coverage in the foreign press regarding the management of tourist flows: from El Pais to Le Monde, the Washington Post and Financial Times.
By Enrico Tantucci
VENICE: The world is talking about the gates that were placed to manage the flow of tourists in Venice. The news of the creation of these tourist “check points” during the May 1 holiday, as requested by Mayor of Venice Luigi Brugnaro, has in the following days turned up in many foreign dailies.
From French to English, Spanish to German, American to even Argentinian, all have reported on the unprecedented provision. The reports inevitably reflect on the overcrowding of Venice as well as the general fragility of the city.
The reactions are more surprised than negative, almost as if fully aware that, as the physical presence of these gates indicates, Venice risks “overflowing” with too much tourism and that the moment to do something has arrived.
The notable French daily Le Monde, for example, wrote regarding the gates: “The measure was considered “useful” by an Italian tourist, who admitted to having a sense of “security and order”, but a French couple was more conflicted. “I think it is bad for tourism. I think that Venice loses people who are blocked by crowds and frustrated by not being able to see the monuments”, said Paul. “It’s shocking being blocked by the crowds, I agree”, said Valerie, “but at what price? If it means damaging the city…”.
The Financial Times, the prestigious British financial daily, has instead invited its readers to go to Treviso instead of Venice to avoid the packed sites and choked passages. “Few cities” writes the Financial Times “have the history and the setting of Venice, yet these are not enough. The 55 thousand inhabitants of the Serenissima are submerged by almost 3 million tourists a year, and the city has been at the forefront of protests against tourism. Treviso is just twenty minutes from Venice and has its own airport. Despite this, and in its favor, the city has been ignored by mass tourism”.
For the Spanish El Pais, “the reality, apart from the turnstiles, is that there is a serious menace to the city. While the tourist visits continue to rise, fueled by the cruise phenomenon, which involved 2.5 million people last year, the city’s population has diminished to two thirds of what it was in middle of the last century. Even if this is in part due to the threats and damages caused by acqua alta, mass tourism and the corrosion of the commercial and social fabric of the city that the tourism brings are the primary factors”. For the Spanish daily, “the model of Venice, a global paradigm of tourist saturation, prefigures a growing tendency in other places that are suffering from overcrowding. In fact, in Italy similar things are happening in places such as Cinque Terre, where entrance is now limited to a fixed number of visitors in the high season”.
The Washington Post writes that “the tourists far outnumber the residents of Venice, where the narrow calle become almost impassable in periods of high traffic”. And for the German Frankfurter Allgemeine, reporting on the gates, “Venice lives by tourism, but the huge crowds are endangering the World Heritage Site. Thus for years measures have been discussed regarding how to make tourism more sustainable”. Almost the same words appear in the Argentinian daily Clarin, referring to the introduction of the gates by recalling that “the flow of tourists at Venice grows especially when the cruise ships unload thousands of passengers for a day visit”.
In summary, there is a growing awareness even in the international press that mass tourism in Venice is becoming a problem rather than a primary resource, putting the survival of the city at risk. This concern is shared as well by the Undersecretary of Cultural Resources Ilaria Borletti Buitoni, who responded favorably to the introduction of gates for tourists by Mayor Brugnaro. “He had courage which must be acknowledged,” she remarked, “because he has finally begun addressing a problem which has been ignored for many years with an effort to control the flow of tourists. What is important is that this not be a ‘spot’ measure, but that we move forward along this course with organic and not contradictory provisions, such as those that call for the construction of new hotels at Mestre or along the coast, which will bring even more excursionists to the city. The message being spread in the foreign press is also important. Until now the world has seen and spread images of Venice clogged with crowds of tourists or crossed by cruise ships, images which are certainly not positive for the city. I don’t believe that images of the gates will keep tourists away from Venice, but they could make them more conscious of there being better times for their visit, even if it is inevitable that everyone, however, wants to arrive in Piazza San Marco”.
Source: La Nuova Venezia, 6 May 2018