Cruise control: how Venice is setting an example for the future of tourism
To mitigate climate change and Covid-19 the industry has to change, with regulation alongside reinvention needed
When Covid-19 lockdowns emptied cities from Paris to Sydney, city dwellers got a glimpse of what life without the hazards of mass tourism could be. Now, as the sound of jet engines and cruise ships fills the air again, we should push for a more balanced return to normality.
Italy offers a glimpse of what that might be with prime minister Mario Draghi’s courageous move to ban giant cruise ships from Venice’s lagoon. The decision, which took effect last weekend, might seem like a no-brainer given the ballooning size and damage caused by floating hulks carrying thousands of people, but it’s one that carries real economic trade-offs after the pandemic. It should be just the start: the tourism industry that calls for regulation alongside longer-term reinvention.
For too many years it has been easy to complain about the environmental and societal costs of growing ranks of tourists from Amsterdam and Barcelona to the Maldives, while doing little to stop the flow of money they bring. In Italy tourism accounts for 6% of GDP and Venice is one of the country’s crown jewels, attracting millions of tourists in the pre-pandemic years and effectively chaining the historical city’s 50,000 residents to the travel industry. Years of complaints from locals about damaged infrastructure, overcrowding and a rising sea level brought plenty of promises and ideas, but little action. ..