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Europe: Venice residents protest as city begins visitor charging scheme – as it happened

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‘Are we joking?’: Venice residents protest as city starts charging visitors to enter

Angela Giuffrida

Authorities in Venice have been accused of transforming the famous lagoon city into a “theme park” as a long-mooted entrance fee for day trippers comes into force.

Venice is the first major city in the world to enact such a scheme. The €5 (£4.30) charge, which comes into force today, is aimed at protecting the Unesco world heritage site from the effects of excessive tourism by deterring day trippers and, according to the mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, making the city “livable” again.

But several residents’ committees and associations have planned protests for Thursday, arguing that the fee will do nothing to resolve the issue.

“I can tell you that almost the entire city is against it,” claimed Matteo Secchi, who leads Venessia.com, a residents’ activist group. “You can’t impose an entrance fee to a city; all they’re doing is transforming it into a theme park. This is a bad image for Venice … I mean, are we joking?”

Once the heart of a powerful maritime republic, Venice’s main island has lost more than 120,000 residents since the early 1950s, driven away by a number of issues but predominantly a focus on mass tourism that has caused the population to be dwarfed by the thousands of visitors who crowd its squares, bridges and narrow walkways at the busiest times of the year.

Read the full story.

Key events

Summary of the day

  • A long-mooted entrance fee for day trippers came into force in Venice.

  • Venice is the first major city in the world to enact such a scheme.

  • The €5 (£4.30) charge is aimed at protecting the Unesco world heritage site from the effects of excessive tourism.

  • But the scheme got a shaky start, bewildering people staying in hotels who needed to prove their exemption.

  • Protesters in Venice expressed their opposition to the new fee.

  • Opponents argue that the fee is against the principle of freedom of movement and will do nothing to meaningfully address over-tourism.

  • There was tension between police dressed in riot gear and the estimated 500 people protesting against the fee.

  • Meanwhile, Madrid’s prosecuting authority sought the dismissal of a case against the wife of Spain’s prime minister.

  • Journalists at Italian state broadcaster RAI will strike next month, reporters’ trade union Usigrai announced.

‘Recipe for disaster’: Venice entry fee sparks confusion and protest on day one

Angela Giuffrida

Venice’s entrance charge for day trippers has got off to a shaky start, bewildering people staying in hotels who needed to prove their exemption and drawing protests from some residents.

The €5 (£4.30) charge, aimed at curtailing over-tourism, has ignited fury among some residents. The charge kicked in at 8.30am on Thursday and will apply on 29 peak days until 14 July as part of a trial phase.

Most of the day trippers arriving at Santa Lucia station came prepared with a QR code proving they had paid the €5 toll, but the initiative caused confusion among people staying in hotels who were unaware they had to go through the rigmarole of confirming their exemption online.

Read the full story.

Nicolas Schmit, the Socialist lead candidate in the European elections, has spoken out in defence of Pedro Sánchez and his wife, Begoña Gómez.

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Italian state broadcaster journalists to strike

Journalists at Italian state broadcaster RAI will strike next month, Reuters reported.

The journalists are protesting against the “suffocating control” over their work by the Italian government, reporters’ trade union Usigrai said today, criticising political attempts “to turn RAI into a mouthpiece for the government.”

Why is Spain’s prime minister considering resigning from office?

Sam Jones

On Wednesday night, Spain’s socialist prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, abruptly announced he was cancelling his public duties for the rest of the week and considering resigning from office. He said he would announce his decision on Monday.

What prompted the shock announcement?

Although Spanish politics has become increasingly polarised, personal and bitter over recent years, Sánchez said he had felt compelled to consider his position after what he called a baseless “harassment and bullying operation” conducted against him and his wife by political opponents and hostile sections of the rightwing and far-right media.

The announcement came hours after a Madrid court said it had opened an investigation into Sánchez’s wife, Begoña Gómez, “for the alleged offence of influence peddling and corruption”. The investigation followed a complaint from the pressure group Manos Limpias (Clean Hands).

Read the full explainer here.

Spanish prosecutor seeks dismissal of case against prime minister’s wife

Madrid’s prosecuting authority today sought the dismissal of a case against the wife of Spain’s prime minister, Reuters reported.

The move came a day after a judge agreed to look into a private complaint against Begoña Gómez over alleged influence peddling and business corruption.

Pedro Sánchez, the prime minister, cancelled his public duties for the rest of the week and said he is considering resigning, blaming a “harassment and bullying operation” by his political and media opponents for a court’s decision to launch an investigation.

Here are more photos from today’s protest in Venice.

Protestors hold a banner reading “No to ticket, Yes to houses and services for all” as they take part in a demonstration, against the new “Venice Access Fee”, organised by the list “Tutta la citta’ insieme” (The whole city together) and members of several Venetians trade associations in “Piazzale Roma” in Venice. Photograph: Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images
A woman holds a banner reading “Venice is not sold, it is defended” as protestors take part in a demonstration. Photograph: Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images

Jon Henley

Entrance fees, visitor zones and taxes: how Europe’s biggest cities are tackling overtourism

Mass tourism, promoted by cash-hungry councils since the 2008 crash and fuelled by cheap flights and online room rentals, has become a monster.

After plummeting during Covid, tourism numbers are soaring again and set to exceed pre-pandemic ­levels this summer. The number of low-cost airline seats in Europe, which rose 10% annually from 2010 and hit 500m in 2019, could pass 800m in 2024.

Before lockdown, Airbnb, the ­biggest but far from only ­platform for short lets, saw triple-digit growth in some European ­cities. The net result is that the most ­popular city break destinations now annually host 20 or more visitors for each local.

What to do about it, though, is no easy question. Delicate ­balances need to be struck between the much-needed revenues and jobs generated by tourism, and the ­quality of life of residents; between managing tourism and ­discouraging it.

One strategy that Seville – 3 million tourists a year for 700,000 inhabitants – may adopt is to charge for the big attractions. Since January, foreign visitors to Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia, which gets about 3.5m ­visits a year, have been paying €25 for the privilege.

Other cities are relying on better management – Athens, for example, last summer introduced a time-slot system for visits to the Acropolis, while summer access to Marseille’s Calanques is now regulated through a free reservation scheme.

Some places are launching ­information campaigns aiming to reshape tourist flows. France, where 80% of visits are concentrated in 20% of the country, will this spring roll out a €1m campaign urging domestic and foreign tourists to head more off the beaten track.

Read the full story.

Ajit Niranjan

Ajit Niranjan

When tourists flock to a travel-guide hotspot – clogging ports with dirty cruise ships and pumping planet-heating pollutants out of planes – the environment is one of their first victims.

That’s why Barcelona’s plan to fund climate action with a tourist tax could solve two problems at once: limiting the number of visitors who strain the drought-stricken city’s water supplies and financing green policies that clean the air and keep people safe during heatwaves.

The city council said it will invest €100m in climate control systems in 170 schools – 148 of which are primary schools – over the next five years. It plans to pay for the measures, which it estimates will benefit 55,519 students, by hiking the tourist tax.

Heatwaves have grown hotter, longer and more common as carbon pollution has baked the planet. As well as the large death toll from heat – which scientists pegged at 70,000 people across Europe in 2022 – hot weather makes it harder for students to learn.

Barcelona’s plan includes sticking solar panels on rooftops to produce enough energy to power new heat pumps, which keep buildings warm in winter and air conditioners, which keep them cool in summer. The city plans to share the extra energy from the solar panels with the local communities.

Protests in Venice as city introduces fee

Here are the latest images from Venice, where some are protesting a new five-euro fee.

Citizens and activists confront police during a demonstration against Venice tax fee. Photograph: Luca Bruno/AP
Members of Venice Arci Association (ARCI) hold fake passports as they demonstrate against the new ticket access outside the Santa Lucia railway station in Venice, as visitors entering the UNESCO World Heritage site for one day have to buy a five-euro ($5.3) ticket in Venice. Photograph: Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images

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