Venice — City officials on Monday opened a new water-bus line here with one special feature: no day-trip tourists allowed.
The new line — reserved for holders of the Carta Venezia pass — was introduced to lessen the impact of the estimated 20 million people who visit Venice each year on the city’s beleaguered residents.
“It’s an extra service for residents who are forced to bear the brunt of mass tourism,” said Mayor Massimo Cacciari. About 60,000 people live in the city’s historic center. “It’s evident that tourism is growing,” the mayor added during an interview on the line’s maiden voyage. “If people want to come to Venice they can come, but we have to allow residents to live better.”
Marcello Panettoni, director general of the Venice transport authority, said the new line was a response to citizens’ complaints that the hordes of tourists cramming onto water buses, with luggage in tow, had been leaving residents stuck on dry land. “They are our habitual clients, we have to cater to them above all,” he said, referring to the residents. “For people who live and work in Venice, better transportation had become essential.”
As tourism has boomed, the city has considered various proposals to stem the tide of visitors to Venice, from limiting access to the historic center to imposing a tourism tax. But such measures are logistically difficult to impose as well as unpopular with workers in the tourism industry.
The Venice region’s tourist trade generates a reported $17.3 billion a year.
Venice is not the only Italian city where local issues can have an impact on tourism. Last week the regional tourism association announced that it would begin a media campaign in Germany to counteract the negative publicity brought on by the trash crisis in Naples. The collection of trash in the city and the surrounding area was halted a month ago after local landfills overflowed, and trash has been accumulating in the streets.
Those heaps of trash are “damaging the image of tourism in Italy,” Marco Michielli, president of the Veneto tourism association, told the news agency ANSA.
In Venice, the new No. 3 water-bus line, which follows the Grand Canal along its length from Piazzale Roma, next to the city parking lot, to Piazza San Marco, was scheduled to coincide with the start on Friday of the Venice Carnival, a two-week pre-Lenten festival that attracts millions of people each year.
“Now that Carnival is starting, you can’t move around anymore,” said Mirina Vio, 72, a passenger on the maiden voyage who complained that life here in her native city had worsened considerably in recent years — higher prices, overcrowding, dirtier streets — as the tourism industry blossomed.
The water bus, she added, had become a nightmare. “We get packed like sardines, and then fights break out,” Ms. Vio said. “That’s if you manage to get on.”