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The renowned city of Venice has, for the time being, avoided being placed on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger. This determination was reached by the World Heritage Committee in their meeting in Riyadh this Thursday, a resolution that contradicts the earlier recommendations put forth by the international organization’s experts.

As delineated in a statement released by UNESCO, this decision comes in acknowledgment of the “advancements achieved in recent days,” including a plan for a tourist flow management system to be introduced by 2024. This strategy notably incorporates the implementation of a daily five-euro tax aimed at visitors staying only a single day in the magnificent City of Doges, intending to modulate the massive tourism suffocating the city.

However, the Italian Minister of Culture, Gennaro Sangiuliano, was swift to herald this news as “a victory for Italy and common sense,” whilst recognizing that Venice is not entirely out of the woods yet.

Despite this surge of satisfaction, UNESCO continues to exert substantial pressure on Italy, emphasizing the urgency to further progress in tackling looming challenges such as mass tourism and development initiatives, coupled with threats amplified by climate change. In this vein, the Committee has specifically instructed Italy to foster close cooperation with a consultative mission from the World Heritage Centre, and to furnish a detailed report by February 1, 2024, setting the stage for a reevaluation of the site’s status at the committee’s 46th session in the summer of the same year.

It is noteworthy that Venice, this architectural gem dating back to foundations laid in the 5th century, spans 118 picturesque islets and boasts a rich history highlighted by its zenith as a maritime power in the 10th century. Nonetheless, this city, a World Heritage site since 1987, is grappling with the burdens of excessive tourism and the repercussions of climate change, endangering its exceptional universal value.

While the current decision allows La Serenissima to avoid a disgraceful classification, it also sheds light on the gargantuan task awaiting local authorities. They are urged to implement drastic and unavoidable measures to safeguard this global heritage jewel while balancing the needs of the approximately 50,000 inhabitants of the city center and the enormous influx of tourists, which can peak at up to 100,000 individuals daily.

The initiation of a taxation system may indeed curb the daily influx of tourists, yet UNESCO experts warn that substantial efforts are required to prevent “irreversible changes” to the lagoon city. Italy is thus faced with the challenge of marrying heritage sensibilities with economic imperatives in a long-term preservation strategy.

With AFP