Authorities in Venice reached a consensus on Tuesday, September 12, to implement a trial fee for visitors exploring the congested historic center, a move prompted by UNESCO’s recent cautionary note that the city might be included on the list of world heritage sites in jeopardy.

Venice officials agreed Tuesday to test a fee on day tourists to the overcrowded historic center, weeks after UNESCO warned it could list the city as an at-risk world heritage site.

The Venice city council voted in favor of a limited test, to begin next spring, of a long-debated ticketing system that critics say will nevertheless do little to stem the hordes of tourists who descend each year.

Day visitors will face a five euro ($5.40) charge for entry into the historic center.

Authorities have debated for years, without taking concrete action, over how best to regulate the millions of visitors to the famous watery city, who come anxious to see sights including St Mark’s Square, the Rialto Bridge and its countless picturesque canals.

But the ticketing plan has been repeatedly postponed over concerns it will seriously dent tourist revenue and compromise freedom of movement.

UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations, warned in July that Venice risked “irreversible” damage due to a string of issues ranging from mass tourism to climate change, and recommended it be put on its endangered list.

But the opposition cast the tax as a hastily arranged concession to UNESCO, while accusing the administration of failing to conduct studies over whether the fee would even work to keep tourists away.

The test will be spread out over up to 30 days during 2024, on particularly crowded days such as long weekends and public holidays.

Two years ago, Venice imposed a ban on massive cruise ships from which thousands of day-trippers emerge daily, rerouting them to a more distant industrial port.

Khalil Wakim, with AFP

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