5:35 pm PST
Venice, as seen from the air (Oliver-Bonjoch)

At the beginning of the New Year people around the world spare a moment to reflect on the past 12 months and some even vow to make resolutions to achieve higher personal goals.

In 2019 the canal city of Venice has resolved to address the lack of visitor interest in staying overnight at hotels in the Italian tourist mecca. According to the Italian tourist bureau, almost 30 million people visit Venice each year but less than one third stay at the city’s 1500 hotels and bed and breakfasts establishments. This includes cruise-ship passengers who sleep on the boat.

In Italy’s 2019 budget, the Venice City Council has been granted powers to charge tourists as much as $12 a day if they do not spend the night. Tourists who decide to stay will continue to pay $5 extra per night as per the Venice’s existing tourist tax.

The new fee is widely anticipated to be enforced by charging tourists as they enter the turnstiles on the way to the old part of town. The city installed turnstiles to help manage the influx of people pouring into the old city to prevent overcrowding and security risks associated with people being unable to move. Venice reserves the power to close turnstiles to tourists and limit access to the city’s 50,000 citizens and hotel guests.

However, there are concerns tourists could avoid paying by using water taxis through the canals connecting the airport and the city center.

There are also continuing worries that cruise ships will continue to erode canals as they pass through the Grand Canal near St. Mark’s Square, and discourage tourists from eating at restaurants by providing all meals on the ship.

Venice is still trying to strike the right balance between capitalizing on cruise ship passengers while allowing the free movement of locals and businesses who work in the cruise ship district. Cruise ship arrivals in 2017 were 1.45 million, down 19.5 percent compared to five years ago.

The new levy is expected to increase revenue by 65.7 percent to almost $58 million a year.

By Richard Taylor