DEAR CRUISE PASSENGERS, YOU ARE NOT WELCOME IN OUR TOWN.
SINCERELY, VENICE RESIDENTS.
“Excuse me, when does Venice close?”
“I am sorry, I don't understand what you mean.”
“Well, you know, when does everybody have to leave?”
“You get back to your home when you feel like, I guess.”
“Wait, you mean there are people staying in Venice? I thought the island closed at night, like - you know – Disneyland.”
Unfortunately, this is not a sad joke about Americans, but a real conversation between a cruise ship passenger and a Venice resident.
More than 60,000 people visit Venice every day and only a third are staying the night. In 2016 it was registered a new low of fewer than 55,000 inhabitants, down from 164,000 in 1931. The total of tourists visiting Venice every year is estimated to be about 22 million, where almost a third come onboard cruise ships. By looking at these numbers, it is not hard to understand that mass-tourism, and in particular the cruise ships', is causing serious damage to an already fragile city.
Every year about 650 cruise ships reach Venice passing through the Giudecca canal allowing the passengers to enjoy a spectacular view of St Mark's square. By doing so, they move 100,000 tonnes of water that crash onto the fragile foundations of Venice and the waves that they provoke can last for hours after they have passed.
Even though the cruise companies fight hard to deliver an image of environmentally friendly tourism, the contamination that these floating giants produce is frightening: one cruise ship emits as much pollution as five million cars.
Cruise companies and port authorities are hiding behind the slogan “we create jobs” even though cruise ships passengers tend not to sleep or eat in Venice hotels, basically not contributing to the local economy at all.
Local residents and the No Big Ships committee are sick of the situation and urging the government to find a solution.
In 2014 senator Casson proposed the construction of an offshore platform to preserve the lagoon in its entirety. This option immediately saw a strong rejection from the cruise companies.
In 2015 ships of more than 95,000 tonnes were banned from passing the Giudecca canal, which felt like a joke to residents, considering that the Titanic weighted 46,328 tonnes.
An alternative solution, still to be discussed, would be digging a new path in the southern part of the lagoon, called Contorta Canal. This option is fiercely opposed by the environmentalists who believe that such a deep canal would break the fragile eco-system of the lagoon.
That said, it is very likely that Venice will keep attracting millions of visitors, so what is the solution? Focusing on the quality of tourism rather than the quantities. Trying to “educate” the visitors by teaching them the traditions and culture of this ththousand-year-oldity, rather than exploiting its past and expecting tourists to pay 10€ for a coffee in St Mark's square.
© GIULIA CANDUSSI. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.