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Saving Venice from the Tourists

Posted on Sep, 7, 2016
Contributed to WCHV by Danielle
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veniceIf you have ever visited Venice, Italy, you have come back home with stunning images and memories of that beautiful city. Most people simply fall in love with that beautiful city. However, it has been the impact of tourism and drastic increase in the number of people visiting the city which has worried the heritage officials and the UNESCO.

In a very interesting recent New York Times article by Salvatore Settis who is the chairman of the Louvre Museum’s scientific advisory council and the author of the forthcoming book “If Venice Dies”, Mr. Settis talks about the threat of tourism “decimating the historic city and turning the Queen of the Adriatic into a Disneyfied shopping mall”.

According to Mr. Settis, the millions of tourists pouring into Venice’s streets and canals are profoundly altering the population and the economy. Tourism is tearing apart Venice’s social fabric, cohesion and civic culture, and is growing ever more predatory according to the article.

It is not surprising that Venice and many other tourists’ sites are reporting higher number of visitors. This in part is due to the fact that the international travelers are avoiding destinations like Turkey, North Africa and some parts of Asia, because of fears of terrorism and unrest.

It has been widely reported that the population of the city has dramatically changed as many native citizens are banished from the island city and those who remain have no choice but to serve in hotels, restaurants and shops selling glass souvenirs and carnival masks. In fact, according to the article, there is an increasing imbalance between the number of the city’s inhabitants (which plummeted from 174,808 in 1951 to 56,311 in 2014, the most recent year for which numbers are available) and the tourists. In addition, proposed large-scale development, including new deepwater navigation channels and a subway running under the lagoon, could further increase erosion and create more strain on the fragile ecological-urban system that surrounds Venice.

According to Mr. Settis, the city is now facing shortage of hotel rooms and overnight accommodations. The damage to the life and structure of the city could be seen in the closure of state institutions, judicial offices, banks, the German Consulate, medical practices which have happened in the last 15 years.

All of this is what has made UNESCO worried and why Venice has now been placed on its World Heritage in Danger list requiring Italian government to establish measures in order to halt the degradation of the city and its ecosystem.

In its July report, Unesco’s committee on heritage sites expressed “extreme concern” about “the combination of ongoing transformations and proposed projects threatening irreversible changes to the overall relationship between the City and its Lagoon,” which would, in its thinking, erode the integrity of Venice, as reported by the New York Times.

And of course, for all of us who are proclaimed Venice lovers, we continue to advocate measures for preservation and conservation of this beautiful city so that tourists and visitors could enjoy it for centuries to come.

To read Mr. Settis’ full article, visit:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/30/opinion/can-we-save-venice-before-its-too-late.html?_r=0

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