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Are entry fees effective? Sustainable tourism expert weighs in

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Abby Kozlowski

Venice has begun charging an entry fee for day trippers in an effort to keep tourism down. Residents protested the action and argued it will do nothing to curtail overtourism.

Megan Epler Wood

Managing director of the Sustainable Tourism Asset Management Program

Megan Epler Wood is managing director at the Sustainable Tourism Asset Management Program (STAMP) at Cornell University. She says STAMP research indicates tourism fees generally do not limit arrivals and do not cover costs for managing necessities like water and waste.

Epler Wood says:

“Tourism volume is now reaching pre-pandemic levels and numerous destinations are realizing they need to institute a tax or entrance fee policy which recompenses municipalities for the cost of managing tourism. Headline destinations, such as Venice, have long struggled with overtourism. Because it is largely a cruise ship destination, day visitors arrive on numerous ships simultaneously and expect low-cost experiences when on shore, making it extremely difficult for the city to manage crowds and lower impacts.

“In general, a wide array of tourism taxes are already applied to hotels or airports and are charged at entry or departure. For cities like Venice, most research shows that an additional tax does not lower arrivals, as is often contended.

“Destinations around the world are seeing costs skyrocket for managing tourism, and this will only become more frequent in the next decade. Athens, Greece recently reported they received nearly 7 million tourists in 2023, receiving only 42 cents per tourist at the municipal level, causing a very difficult strain on their infrastructure without recompense.

“According to our publication, necessities such as water, waste, energy utilities and the need for affordable housing are not generally addressed by the destination marketing organizations which often receive the tourism tax. In order to address the invisible burden of tourism, new destination management entities will need to determine the cost per tourist to ensure there is an equitable and sustainable use of local resources. Once such costs are determined, tax reform will be required to cover these costs.”

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