Amusement Park Venice
3. February 2014
Venice, so famous for life on water and for its centuries-old history of art, culture and political power. Venice is unique in its kind because its historic centre is formed by 118 islands, 160 canals and 409 bridges. Venice is a monument in itself. Because it is such an old city, there are many churches, palaces, and other buildings, where much art by famous artists can be found. Venice is probably also the most visited city on this globe. More than 15 million tourists come to the city every year and every year this number grows. This huge increase in visitor numbers means that the number of tourist facilities, such as restaurants and hotels, will characterise the image of Venice, rather than the historical heritage. Between 1976 and 1991, the number of tourist facilities increased by a staggering 144%. The main tourist attractions, such as San Marco Square and the famous bridge near the commercial centre of Rialto and the Grand Canal, are dominated by souvenir stalls, pushing the attractions into the background.
Anyone who wants to go to Venice is discouraged to come during the months of July and August, when the narrow streets of Venice literally become clogged with the large bulk of tourists. Also, staying in Venice during the high season is an impossible task, unless you book months in advance. Nevertheless, Venice remains one of the must-see destinations; Everyone wants to be there once in their life. That’s why Venice has become a real tourist city. The local Venetian atmosphere is far to be sought, partly because the population of Venice has halved in the last 50 years. In 1951 there were 175,000 people living in Venice, with 68,000 remaining in 1998. The ageing population is also on the rise: in 1998 the average age was already 50 years, which will only increase in the future. As a result, there is little new life, which means that Venice will probably not have a single inhabitant in decades to come. The big question, therefore, is whether Venice will grow old and die with its inhabitants. Lonely Planet even says that if the depopulation continues, Venice will turn into a theme park, where everything is artificially set up for visitors.
The large flow of tourists not only causes loss of historical cultural heritage, but also the environmental impacts are incalculable. Because Venice has little carrying capacity, the city only covers 7.5 km2, the waters and the air pollute considerably. Although Venice is a car-free city, the exhaust gases are no less. All traffic takes place over the water, causing these ‘lagoons’ damage that is impossible to restore. Taking into account the global trend of heating the earth, Venice already has floodings. In Venice, the carrying capacity is literally exceeded; due to the great pressure on the fragile islands that Venice is rich in, there is a good chance that they will sink eventually.
After years of being ignored, today’s organizations are increasingly aware of the degradation of Venice. Since 1987, Venice has been on the United Nations World Heritage List. This means that Venice is a protected area and that money is being allocated to preserve it, not as a tourist attraction, but as a cultural historical heritage. Surely this heritage of Venice is the main reason to visit it, and not the souvenir stalls?
The Coronavirus pandemic of 2020 had and still has a big impact on the tourism industry. Because of the lockdown during the first period of the crisis, for the first time in many years, the streets of Venice were empty and nature had a chance to recover. The water in the canals were clear blue and even fish had returned. This only proves again how much damage tourists can actually cause in a destination.
For more information about the origins and decays of Venice, visit the UNESCO and Lonely Planet websites.