by Nick Squires, The Telegraph, February 5, 2019
A tourist tax that Venice is to introduce in May has been criticised by the country’s tourism minister as “useless and damaging”.
Plans to charge tourists €3 (£2.60) from May 1, with the amount rising to a maximum of €10 within three years, were announced on Monday by Luigi Brugnaro, the mayor of Venice.
By 2020, in addition to paying the surcharge, tourists will have to make a booking to enter the World Heritage destination.
Anyone found trying to dodge the new regulations will be fined up to €450.
But within 24 hours of the plan’s unveiling, Gian Marco Centinaio, minister for tourism, called the tax a “useless and damaging measure”.
"Do we want to become a country that repels tourists?" he wrote on Twitter, adding that it was “enough to make you weep”.
The controversial tax, which has been approved by Venice city council, is designed to make the millions of day-trippers who descend on La Serenissima each year contribute to the upkeep of the lagoon city.
“The aim is to improve the quality of life of residents,” said Mr Brugnaro. “We’re not in it to make money but to get to a point in 2022 where we can manage the flow of tourists with an obligatory booking system.”
When the system is in full swing, tourists will pay €3 during the low season, €8 during high season and €10 during “critical” periods, such as summer weekends, when visitor numbers reach excessive levels.
The different payments will be represented by green, red and black stickers.
But regardless of how many tourists swamp Venice, no one will be denied access to the city and there will be no turnstiles or access gates, the mayor said. “The city will remain open to all,” he said.
Venetians will be exempt from the tax, as will Italians who commute to work there from the mainland, and children under the age of six.
Revenue from the tourist tax will be used to offset the high charges that Venetians pay for services such as rubbish collection, which is more expensive because of the city’s unique geography.
Handcarts are used in the narrowest alleyways and refuse has to be taken away on special barges.
The tax will apply to tourists who arrive by cruise ship, in water taxis and by plane or train.
The cost will be incorporated into their tickets, although the logistical details are still to be worked out.
While criticised by the tourism minister, the measure was welcomed by other politicians.
“To impose a contribution of a few euros on the more than 20 million tourists who visit Venice each year is common sense and should not be derided or objected to,” said Francesco Lollobrigida, from the Right-wing Brothers of Italy party.
“The 50,000 inhabitants of the city endure great inconvenience and the costs of maintaining Venice are exceptional.”