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What is Venice’s new tourist tax and what does it mean for my 2020 European cruise?

Updated: Aug 11, 2020

Venice has played a huge part in paving the path for tourism as we know it. Such an iconic destination, even the humble gondolier is as instantly recognizable as the Eiffel Tower. Having become a global travel standard in the mind’s eye of many millions of would-be visitors, destinations such as Venice are finding that their success comes with a few hidden costs.

A large increase in visitor numbers during the last decade

According to Statista, in 2017 Venice welcomed well beyond 4.3 million foreign visitors, representing an increase of more than 800,000 visitors per year when compared to 2011.

The sun rising over the canals of Venice, Italy. Boats on the water and the grand domes of a cathedral in the background
Sunrise over Venice, iconic Italy

But that figure doesn't paint a full picture, missing out on the unbelievable local day trip and domestic visitor numbers, bringing the volume of visitors closer to the 26-30 million mark!

As cruise passengers visiting Venice in 2017 held at about 1.4 million, cruisers represent only about 5% of the average annual visitor numbers!

Alongside Amsterdam and Barcelona, Venice is seeing the duality of such increase and now must plan well today to protect the Venice of tomorrow. Among the most critical outcomes of which is the fate of local residents and their quality of life. Might increased disruption encourage their expatriation, forever changing the lifeblood of these classic travel destinations?

An overhead view of a gondolier on the canals of Venice, Italy
A challenge to the everyday life of local Venetians?

Every aspect of local infrastructure sees a strain, the population of Venice barely meets 300,000 people. That’s far more than ten times the population in terms of use of walkways, canals, street cleaning, refuse collection, water and electricity services, and so on.

Europe leads the way

Europe already leads the pack in terms of taxation and other fiscal measures intended to supplement efforts in combating such strain, alongside considerations for local business and even the environment.

Tourists on a gondola in Venice near the Rialto Bridge
More iconic Venice. Tourists enjoy a gondola ride near the Rialto Bridge

These fees are oftentimes built into the cost of travel packages, visitors might not even be aware they are paying them, while others remain obvious, such as “city tax” or “tourist tax”.

Amsterdam, for example, has both.

The toeristenbelasting is a mandatory rate set against all variety of accommodations while

the dagtoeristenbelasting is the “day tripper” version, an €8.00 per passenger rate for those who call to Amsterdam on an ocean cruise or river cruise, but who are not starting or ending their trip there.

Barcelona employs a per person, per night rate against accommodation, based on the star rating. Typically between €0.75 and €2.50.

Even the City of Lights, Paris, hosts a rate for overnight visitors, from campsites right through to palaces!

Venice has been talking about their latest iteration of the tourist tax for more than a year in its current form, with a nightly rate for overnight visitors making an appearance as far back as 2011.

The sun shines over the beautiful architecture of Venice
How else might we expect local government to keep the Grand Canals looking truly grand?

What are "day-tripper" rates?

The Venice “day-tripper” rate has not been decided in its administration or even how the fee may be paid, regardless, it will take force on the 1st of July 2020 and law has been passed to set the rates between €3.00 and €10.00 per person, per day.

Future iterations may include full-blown advance registration of a visit, that may mean Canadian and American visitors to Venice past 2021 will have to apply for an edocument to visit the Schengen Area and a second, entirely unique registration for Venice.

Can it be more convenient than the Caribbean?

In reality, those of us who enjoy all-inclusive vacation packages to a number of destinations throughout the Caribbean already pay a similar tourist tax and process a landing card on each visit. The rates tend to be included in the price and the cards tend to be distributed during the flight, not typically a disruptive process.

It remains to be seen how much more convenient the process can get when it comes to a cruise of Europe. My hopes for Eastern Mediterranean cruise itineraries and other itineraries featuring Venice as a call to port on or after the 1st of July 2020 will be an almost unnoticeable rate increase to the total cabin fare.

For those into 2021 and where an advanced registration might be required, my hopes would be a simple notice during the cruise booking process that passenger information will be shared for such registrations; that future passengers with an existing booking may only receive an email update notifying the traveller of an automated process.


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