Venice and the Tourism Crisis: hotels and rentals in a low price bidding war

Tourists in Piazza San Marco pre-Covid

Venice and the Tourism Crisis: hotels and rentals in a low price bidding war

By Nino Baldan

21 January 2022

Venice and the tourism crisis: or rather, “three star” hotels for 23 Euro a night. Those who thought that tourism in Venice had hit bottom will have to think again. The drastic decline in arrivals, combined with the saturation of the tourist lodging market have led various places to compete for (the few) clients with price cuts never before seen. If you’re looking for a “double” for Saturday, 29 January you will find one in a pension in Cannaregio for only 37 Euro (which goes down to 33 if you opt for the “shared bathroom”). Stepping up a category to the “two star” lodgings you find a listing for 34 Euro on Lista di Spagna or 37 Euro on Lido. Among the “three star” hotels, there is one at San Marco that will settle for 46 Euro, while in Cannaregio it’s 43 Euro. Dozens of options follow from 50 to 60 Euro, but it is among the “four star” hotels that you find the real deals: 66 Euro for a “double” in Castello, 62 at the Salute, 64 Euro on the Canal Grande and 67 Euro just two steps from Piazza San Marco.

Don’t forget that this is a weekend. If we postpone our arrival by just a day, the “two star” in Cannaregio falls from 34 to 25 Euro – which becomes 23 if you reserve “via sms”. The rates are also lower for the “four star” hotels, in particular at the Salute, where for 52 we can expect a “large” room, breakfast, wi-fi, taxes and fees included. It’s no worse at Castello (55 Euro), while at the Fenice there is a hotel in the same category that is offering rooms at 49 Euro.

Are these sums enough to square the accounts? We can’t really know, even if the choice of 30% of the hotels to stay closed until Carnevale in order to save costs leans in the direction of the answer being no. According to data from Confindustria Alberghi regarding Venezia, 2021 ended worse than 2020, with a 57% decline in room occupancies and a 65% loss of revenue. Claudio Scarpa, Director of the Associazione Veneziana Albergatori confirms the sector’s difficulties: “we are in a terrible situation – he said to the microphones of Antenna Tre – we have had almost two deserted months in the city, with occupancy rates between 15 and 20%, levels never seen before in Venice other than in the lockdown period”. Massimiliano Schiavon of Federalberghi Veneto echoes that view, saying during the same broadcast: “without support within a few weeks we will be forced to begin layoffs”.

It’s clear that this is the “low season”, a period that has historically been marked by a drop in visitors, now aggravated by Covid, which has made intercontinental travel difficult. But while in the past this dip would have been filled by European tourism, the multiplication of lodgings has made the entire sector a slave to big numbers, requiring a decidedly much larger “cake” so that everyone can eat.

According to data from the Osservatorio Civico sulla Casa e la Residenza (O.Cio), in 2001 there were 15,276 tourist beds available in the Municipality of Venice, which in 2021 have quintupled to reach 76,347. The largest growth has been in the non-hotel sector, passing from 3,255 to 39,401 beds – a twelvefold increase.

These tourist rentals are the main alternative to hotels, two sectors that are becoming confused, with hotels expanding into apartment buildings and apartments being managed like hotels, and the two categories ambiguously divided on the online portals, thus letting the price make the big difference. So when you type in the same dates other offers appear that not only compete with the hotels but cannibalize each other by triggering a low price bidding war that does nobody any good: not the employees, not the owners who pay them, and not the economic and social fabric of the city.

Some are aiming for Carnevale, hoping for “in person” events. However, they are forgetting that the numbers didn’t even reach full capacity in 2019. In the past two years, in fact, despite the stalemate of the pandemic, tourist lodgings have further multiplied, with new hotels opening and dozens of new tourist rentals.

This has created a system which requires a continuous increase in demand in order to function, without considering: 1) the unknowns related to Covid, 2) possible hostilities in Eastern Europe and in the Pacific, and 3) the emergence of alternative tourist destinations in the Mediterranean and Middle East.

Rules and limits have always been rejected by appealing to the “free market”, and it is precisely this free market that is now mercilessly presenting the bill.

Source: La Voce di Venezia

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