Representatives from Corfu at Venice meeting to tackle ‘overtourism’
VENICE. The next meeting will be held in Corfu in October, where the Mediterranean network will be formalized.
Over the last few years a new term has come to be used by companies involved in the tourism industry to describe the development of mass tourism into a major problem for the residents of many towns and cities. The term is ‘overtourism’ – something which is threatening not only the everyday life of residents of popular destinations, but also the special ‘identity’ of the city which tourists supposedly want to experience. The main cities affected by this phenomenon are Barcelona, Amsterdam and Venice.
Representatives of Venice and five other Mediterranean tourist hotspots – Corfu, Rhodes, Santorini, Dubrovnik and Paphos - met on Friday to discuss tactics for coping with high numbers of tourists.
From Corfu representatives of ‘San Giacomo’ Cultural Society attended along with the Director of Antiquities, Tenia Rigakou. The meeting was the initiative of the Gruppo 25 Aprile, which has long protested against Venice's overcrowding and organized the first meeting of the Mediterranean network.
Representatives from similar organizations arrived in Venice to share their experiences and tactics for coping with the impact of mass tourism on local populations. Talks and debates at the inaugural meeting will help the cities "compare experiences and priorities", with a long-term goal of working together to combat excessive tourism, Gruppo 25 Aprile said.
Venice: A new record every year
The tourism figures for 2017 were recently published, which showed a record number for Venice. Over 9.5 million people visited Venice itself during 2017, an increase of 8% on the visitor numbers the previous year, according to the figures. Meanwhile, tourist figures for the entire Veneto region were 19 million, a similar increase on the year before.
"When it comes to tourism in the Veneto region, it has become normal to talk about records," said regional councillor for tourism Federico Caner at the presentation of the soaring figures on Thursday. He added that initial figures for the first three months of 2018 suggested the trend would continue throughout this year.
However, not all the increases were equal. Venetian business owners complain that tourists spend their money in cheap souvenir shops or on fast food rather than at locally-run shops and restaurants, and the total amount spent by foreign tourists increased by only 5.7 % last year, implying a higher number of lower value visitors.
At the same time, mass tourism has pushed up rents on city accommodation, forcing many families out of their hometowns.
In recent years, frustrated Venetians have staged frequent protests against the overcrowding, and Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has made tackling overcrowding a priority.
He has introduced measures ranging from promotion of the lesser-explored corners of the city to the installation of people-counters at the most popular sights, as well as 'locals first' policies on water buses. Last summer, the mayor's office banned both new tourist accommodation and new fast food outlets (with an exception for artisanal gelato) in the historic centre.
But critics argue these policies are too little, too late.
Another meeting between the six Mediterranean tourist hotspots has already been planned for October in Corfu, with the stated aim of "formalizing the network and the shared values we aim to defend and represent."
Venice, 13th April 2018
Aware of our responsibilities and confident about the future of our local communities, we met today in the Florian Café for internal discussions in the morning session, and at the Ateneo Veneto of Venice for an open session which was attended by more than 100 people. Our talks resulted in the following Venice Declaration.
Together we commit
to promote sustainable tourism based on mutual respect, the protection of the environment, the preservation of our cultural and natural heritage. To achieve these objectives,
We will stand together in
raising awareness, networking, developing and exchanging good practices, advocating for better policies aimed at ensuring quality of life for both our local communities and visitors alike, and in promoting this network for sustainable islands and coastal towns, which remains open to new members.
Today in Venice we agreed
to hold the next meeting on 12 and 13 October in Kerkyra – Corfu, and to welcome the new members from Crete.
Source: The Local.it / Gruppo 25 Aprile.org