Venice to separate tourists and locals over busy May Day weekend

Venice has come up with a new plan to cope with the huge numbers of visitors that continue to strain its infrastructure: segregating locals and tourists.

Ahead of one of the biggest holiday weekends of the year, the Italian city is implementing new measures that will restrict the movement of visitors and turn away some motorists.

The extraordinary move is the latest step by Venice to manage high levels of tourism that in recent years have led to calls to ban cruise ships and restrict visitor numbers.

With large crowds expect to descend on the city from April 28 to May 1, Mayor Luigi Brugnaro says “urgent measures to guarantee public safety, security and liveability” will be implemented.

Temporary regulations are being introduced to manage pedestrian and water traffic that will redirect tourists away from locals, according to an official statement.

Redirecting tourists

“All tourists know that if they are respecting the city, they are welcome,” explains Brugnaro. “At the same time, however, we have the task of safeguarding Venice.”

Restrictions include redirecting tourist flows to popular landmarks such as the Piazzale Roma and the Strada Nuova.

Certain areas will only be accessible to residents and regular visitors of the city (those with a Venezia Unica card).

Tourists coming from the water will be prevented from disembarking on the usual landings of Riva degli Schiavoni (in front of the Cornoldi barracks) and will instead be handled at special facility set up at the Fondamente Nuove.

Those driving into the city could be turned away if they haven’t reserved a space in one of the city’s parking lots.

Coping mechanisms

The UNESCO World Heritage Site has been monitoring its influx of visitors for the past couple of years. In 2015, head of the Italian Environment Fund, Andrea Carandini, said Venice was being negatively affected by mass tourism.

“Venice now has 50,000 inhabitants — a third of what it did in the 18th century — and yet it receives 30 million tourists a year,” Carandini said.

Campaigns such as #EnjoyRespectVenezia have attempted to promote sustainable tourism in city, but its feared that Venice’s beautiful canals and historic buildings are still too much of a draw.

There are also concerns that the increase in the number of Airbnb homes is driving locals out and turning the city into a museum.

Brugnaro described the May Day holiday regulations as an “experiment with a new tourism management system” which could mean such measures becoming the norm on busy summer weekends.

Locals and visitors are being urged to monitor the City of Venice Facebook and Twitter profiles for updates over the course of the weekend.