In a recent commission meeting, while discussing the system of managing the flow of tourists that was introduced over the May 1 holiday and brought out again on the weekend of June 2, Mayor Luigi Brugnaro offered his assessment of the depopulation in Venice: there is no flight of residents from the city which is overwhelmed by tourists. No, the problem is strictly demographic, he said. In the city there are simply more people dying than being born.
“The depopulation of Venice? Housing has nothing to do with it, the problem is demographic.”
“It’s not true that tourism is the cause of this damage – said Brugnaro – from 31 December 2017 to 30 April 2018 we had 323 deaths and 91 births. It’s a demographic problem, the Mayor can do nothing but pray”.
Meanwhile, in Mestre, Mayor Brugnaro was attending the opening of a new Hostel, a building with 769 beds, starting at 18 Euro per night. At this ceremony Brugnaro said “The problem of day visiting tourism will be solved by these hostels”. “The mainland will also be a nice discovery for the tourists – I think that these lodgings will be the true solution to the problem of day visitors in the lagoon.” Brugnaro continued, “Here there aren’t day trippers but rather those who, thanks to the low prices, can visit not only the classic locations in the historic city center but also lesser known areas of Venice and the lagoon, as well as the mainland, including Mestre with its parks, the forest and its entrenched camp, unique in Italy, or Marghera with its splendid “garden city”.”
[Ed. Note]: I rarely step in to comment, but taken together these positions deserve a bit more attention. In the first place, Brugnaro ignores the glaring fact that the low level of births in the city is not an isolated, natural fact, but rather a distortion of nature caused by the lack of housing and services in the city. No affordable housing means fewer young families can live in the city. To deny this fact is, in my opinion, much like denying that human activity is driving climate change, another man-made distortion of nature.
In the second instance, Brugnaro would have us believe that cheap hostel beds in Mestre will solve the problem of tourism in Venice because the tourists who stay there will save money; money that they will then spend visiting other areas around Venice or on the mainland, and therefore will spend less time in Venice, thus solving the problem. I can’t think of an argument analogous to this one, but it certainly sounds like the Mayor will basically say just about anything to further his goal: as many new hotel beds built as possible. Perhaps the phrase “tortured logic” is best.
Sources: Venezia Today and La Nuova Venezia (based on reports from 7 and 8 June 2018)