We asked Bruce Poon Tip what he thinks about Venice’s new entry fee


Driven by this passion to better the world through travel, it’s not surprising then that Poon Tip is in full support of Venice’s new entry fee, which was announced just last week. Like Machu Picchu a decade ago, Venice is at serious risk of being overrun by tourists, which at its peak in 2019 hit a staggering 25 million. In June of this year, UNESCO took the rare step of recommending the lagoon city be placed on its list of World Heritage in Danger sites, a drastic move that was successfully averted following Italy’s long-discussed cruise ship ban in Venice, which went into effect on Aug. 1.

Now, less than a month later, Venice is doubling down on its efforts to curb overtourism with a new fee system that would require visitors to shell out anywhere from 3-10 euros. There are also plans to implement an advance booking system to control daily capacity, with electronic turnstiles helping to manage and honour these bookings. Both the fee and booking systems could be in place by summer 2022.

In this exclusive interview, we asked Poon Tip what he thinks about Venice’s changes and what they will mean for travellers and locals in the years to come. 

Tourist taxes have been around for a while now, in destinations like Bhutan, Japan and New Zealand. Why is Venice’s entry fee different?

“Because it’s essentially putting walls around a city. It’s really the conversion from a city into an amusement park and with that the rules become very different. I think when you do a tourist tax, that’s for everyone who visits the country and it’s more of a cash grab. Governments have these kinds of cash grabs whether it’s tourist taxes or landing fees for airlines. But the movements of Venice have been interesting because they’re trying to dissuade people from coming in and I don’t think the world has seen anything like it. 

“If you’ve ever been to Venice, there are protests constantly of people who don’t like tourists and they create this tension with tourism. I think the government is also trying to create an agreement with the local people to improve their quality of life.”

Are you surprised that Venice’s proposed entry fee is so minimal, starting at just 3 euros?

“That’s just to start though. When we all agreed to the Inca Trail permits, it was the same thing. As soon as they get the system in and they get organized and they realize the value of it, the fee will shoot right up – immediately. The cost at first is just to invest in the infrastructure and to get people to accept it. Once it becomes a supply and demand thing, people will pay $50 or $100. As a destination, they should be able to control that and then people can decide whether they want to come or not. It’s an open market.”

Do you think we’ll see any negative backlash from tourists unwilling to pay the fee? 

“If so, it will be a short-term problem. We all adapt really quickly. That’s why the fee is so low because people won’t even notice it in the first year. But then in the future, before you book, you’ll know that this is just the way Venice is. 

With the risk of turning Venice into an “amusement park,” do you think the city could have taken a different approach to limit tourism? 

“Venice is the worst-case scenario because there’s the big issue of the town’s deterioration. Historical and cultural preservation is a big issue there, and it’s a main driver of making these decisions. Right now, it’s crucial in Venice. You see cruise ships with thousands of passengers barrelling out and it’s all kind of accepted because tourists spend money when they come. But no one’s looking at the maintenance of the city and its streets. All these tours create impact.

“Personally, I’m all for the new rules. I’m a real believer that we have to protect our world’s most precious and pristine places.”

Do you think that by creating a ‘Disney-esque’ atmosphere that Venice will lose its authenticity? 

“It will absolutely help to preserve it – 100%. However, authenticity is a dangerous word so I’ll say it will preserve its cultural heritage. Part of Venice’s cultural heritage are the people who live there – they are part of the attraction. People want to go to Venice to see the people who live there, but if people are constantly tripping over thousands of tourists, you’re no longer seeing people in their natural environment.”

As a tour operator, you want to be profitable and promote tourism on a wide scale, but how do you do that and be sensitive to environmental concerns, such as those in Venice?

“You have to support communities and culture in the long-term. Nothing is more important to us as tour operators than the long-term health and well-being of communities and destinations. There are so many people in many places, Venice included, who are vulnerable to any commercial activity and that takes away from the overall experience of what Venice is.  

“Tourism cannot be limitless and the problem that we have in the tourism industry is that we’re constantly pushing for growth. But we have a finite amount of assets and resources. These companies can’t just continue to push for growth, whether they’re trying to deliver numbers for shareholders or trying to build endless resorts and capacity. Ultimately, it’s not good for the customer either because it commoditizes the experience.”

With all that’s being done by destinations to curb overtourism, whether it’s enforcing permits, entry fees or scheduled entry times, one can argue that these preventative measures are actually counterproductive in that they build up demand and create a booking frenzy. Would you agree?

“It does do that, and it makes it more expensive for people to go in and it should be. It shouldn’t be free. In the future people will know the cost of entry to get into Venice if they want to go, and people will evolve – we evolve to accept. If you look at Machu Picchu, it shouldn’t be a free for all. These permits go up all the time and they cost more, but the people who want to go will book in December, will pay the premium and create that experience. As tour operators, we adapt to create the customer base who wants the experience and pay a premium for it. 

“I don’t think there’ll be some pent-up demand for Venice that will create any chaos. Ultimately, we evolve, we change and we add a little bit of protection at the same time.”

Do you think Venice will kickstart a new trend among other destinations at risk of overtourism? 

“It’s important to remember that this is not new. The regulation of numbers and tourism in destinations has been around for a long time, whether it’s Machu Picchu or the Galapagos Islands or Antarctica. Tourist taxes and tourist fees to maintain these pristine places, I think, is the future. 

“It’s also important to remember that how you define overtourism differs in smaller communities like Mongolia and Tibet. Overtourism there is defined very differently but equally challenging and having an equal cultural impact. When you define overtourism, it’s just not due to millions and millions of people like in Venice, which has become the poster-child. Because we built up our big tourism areas, like everything in nature, people now are pushing for more remote places. These places should be equally seen as having overtourism as well.”

Finally, do you think the entry fee will work? Will it ‘save’ Venice?

“I think it will work for Venice, there’s no doubt it will work because people love Venice. It’s time that Venice took control of its own destiny instead of allowing people to decide for them. It’s been so many years of it being out of control, we’ve heard for so long about locals hating tourists and how they leave the city every summer because it’s so overrun. If done right, everyone can get what they want. I still think there can be a lot of tourists that get to see Venice but it just has to be regulated.”



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