Analysis: Venice Policy Won't Stop Cruise Visitation

Venice cruising Editorial Use Only Copyright by Susan J Young Europe cruise
Cruising into Venice. // Photo by Susan J. Young

Last week, rumors and different opinions swirled about potential government changes for cruise ships visiting Venice. This week, the reality of the situation remains fluid and difficult to assess, based on feedback Travel Agent has received in the past few days.  

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) last week sent out a press release stating that a major news U.K. news story “mis-reported” the cessation of service.

Even if the government does make changes within the next few weeks or months, keeping large ships from docking where they do now won’t keep cruise ships from docking at nearby ports.

“Cruise ships have not been diverted yet, which could begin as early as September,” says Vicky Garcia, COO and co-owner, Cruise Planners. But she says that’s just a suggestion right now.

“They are not actually banning all cruise ships but are considering diverting one-third of them away from Venice to the Fusina, Lido, Chioggo or Lombardia ports, which are all within or at the outskirts of the Venetian lagoon," she stresses.

So, even if the large ships are shepherded away, they will likely still have port calls that allow cruisers to journey for the day to Venice. Cruise guests will simply travel to Venice by motorcoach/train, or a smaller ferry, perhaps.  

Stopping cruise ships docking in the Venice city center will have a limited impact and move overtourism to new areas, says Ralph Hollister, associate tourism analyst at GlobalData, which issued a press release today about the issue.

“Rerouting cruise ships away from Venice’s center will give local residents the impression that their complaints have been taken onboard,” he says. “However, it is probable that redirected tourists will commute to the central islands via large coaches and taxi services instead.”

Hollister noted that while the move spreads tourism to new areas outside the center of Venice, it will create traffic congestion, which he believes could pollute suburban areas.

“The combination of utilizing ports away from central Venice and a new measure requiring day-trippers to pay an entrance fee up to $11 from September are unlikely to effectively combat overtourism,” he stresses.

Noting that mass visitation remains important for the local government, Hollis estimates that tourism comprises 11.4 percent of Venice’s GDP.

“The local government may continue to ride the tourism wave until the effects become irreversible to the city’s fragile structure,” he says.

That said, activists often blame cruise lines for “overtourism” in Venice. Yet, the reality – according to CLIA’s spokeswoman Sarah Kennedy – is that fewer than 5 percent of all visitors to Venice are cruise visitors.

That means 95 percent of Venice’s visitors are land-based tourists. And, they’ll likely keep on coming.

Garcia said her group will monitor the situation and update franchise owners about any communication it receives from supplier partners. “Venice is an amazing destination and clients can still get to it,” she says. “It’s not about the ship being there.”

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