Locals and expats in Venice rejecting a return to mass tourism

Published:  29 May at 6 PM
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Tagged: USA, Canada, Italy, Money
Expats and locals in Venice are hoping the city doesn’t revert to wall-to-wall tourism.

Along with other world favourite tourism destinations, the historic Italian city of Venice is almost deserted as the pandemic runs its deadly course. Tourists are banned and the streets are almost empty, showing the glorious, ancient buildings in all their magnificence. As in so many other cities all across the world, life in a dedicated tourism hub has caused many expats and residents to flee to either the outskirts or other nearby small towns.

Over-tourism may well bring in the money, but it can wreck the lives of local residents and long-stay expatriates. The proof is in the numbers, as Venice’s population in the years after WWII was 175,000, dropping to today’s figure of around 52,000. Many long-stayers are certain tourism has literally massacred the size of the population as well as hitting hard on the city itself, as its government has grave concerns about the city’s famous canals as well as its glorious, historic buildings. However, the discovery of a coronavirus hotspot in the Veneto region called a halt to not only the annual Carnival but to tourism itself, allowing the remaining residents and expats to see their city as it really is.

The American director of the Save Venice cultural heritage group believes the pandemic is the city’s turning point, saying that slow tourism is the way forward, even although it means many businesses will close. She’d love to see academic programmes back in the city, along with a balance between today’s commercial reality and the city beloved by both residents and incoming expats for its stunning history and spectacular beauty. This, she believes, is the right path.

Recovering from pandemics is nothing new for Venice, as the Black Death hit the city some 700 years ago, at a time when it was one of the world’s busiest trade hubs. Its first lockdown occurred then, isolating all incoming trading ships for 40 days and coining a new word – ‘quaranta giorni’ – quarantine. After the destructive wave of this new pandemic ends, it’s hoped Venetians as well as resident expats will all have a say in the new city for the first time in centuries.
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