Tourist opposition to Venice’s proposal to charge access to the main square shows much of the arrogance and narrow-mindedness that has typified the worst aspects of tourism.
There is an arrogance in all of us tourists. For the most part we think we have a right to travel the world to see famous places, but we would much prefer it if nobody else was allowed to.
While we may all dream that we can wind the clock back 30 years and imagine we can wander happily and at will through the main square, the stark reality is that Venice now attracts 30 million visitors a year and growing, so some form of management is required.
This arrogance in tourism extends to turning a blind eye to the disruption that such massive numbers of tourists cause to local lives. Venetians are becoming notorious for being hostile to tourists, but have these tourists paused to consider why a local might feel that way?
In my view, the local person has more right to enjoy walking freely through their city – where they live and pay taxes – than a tourist. This is their right. As such, Venice must protect these rights and ensure that the crowds are not so vast as to destroy the ability of local people (or tourists, for that matter) to enjoy the square.
In Jackie Bryant’s article ‘Why I’ll boycott Venice if it charges for access to the main square’, her principle objection is that she feels should remain a public space. She expresses her concern about the ‘commodification’ of the square and implies that this detracts from her experience. I wonder if she feels that paying for entrance to some of the world’s great museums or permits for Macchu Picchu also detract from her enjoyment? Should these places and experiences also be free?
The idea that tourists have a right to freely access landscapes and heritage is a sleight of hand that has been advanced and exploited by the tourism industry. The industry packages and charges for trips to say, Venice or…