Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

Recently, Italy has introduced new regulations for the northeastern city of Venice, including a ban on loudspeakers and a restriction on tour group sizes to a maximum of 25 people. According to an official, these measures aim to mitigate the effects of over-tourism on the city.

Over-tourism is widely recognized as one of the most pressing challenges for Venice, a city with a population of nearly 250,000 that welcomed over 13 million visitors in 2019. Although visitor numbers have declined since the pandemic began, they are anticipated to surpass pre-pandemic levels in the coming years.

Residents are concerned that tourists could overwhelm the historic island city. Renowned for its charming waterways and water taxis, Venice, a highly sought-after vacation destination, faces threats from climate change.

The recent changes to tourism regulations follow a warning from UNESCO experts last year that Venice could be added to the list of world heritage sites in danger due to the impacts of climate change and mass tourism, which risk causing irreversible damage to the city.

The United Nations cultural body ultimately decided not to add Venice to the endangered list, acknowledging efforts to tackle the city’s issues through an anti-flooding system and initiatives to mitigate the effects of mass tourism.

Even after the pandemic, a whopping number of 74 million tourists visited the region in 2022, aiding the global economy’s recovery. While Italy’s most visited cities like Rome, Milan, and Florence attract many visitors, Venice stands out because it is almost entirely situated on water. Navigating Venice often requires a water taxi or gondola ride.

Another unique characteristic of Venice is that it is composed of 118 islands, necessitating water transportation for both residents and visitors. Ironically, this reliance on water transport could also contribute to the city’s potential downfall.

However, climate change has significantly worsened the situation, with altered weather patterns, rising sea levels, and changing air currents leading to dramatically transformed landscapes. Venice, too, is no longer the city it was five years ago.

For example, unexpected flooding last year, driven by climate change, has heightened concerns. Although flooding is not new to Venice—the city has managed it for centuries—the rising water levels now stem from both natural and human activities.

Climate change is impacting nearly all holiday destinations.

For example, Greece, where travel and tourism contribute 15 percent of its GDP, had to evacuate 2,000 holidaymakers after wildfires erupted on the island of Rhodes in 2023.

Is tourism inversely proportional to the impacts of climate change?

While planning a vacation can be tedious, the prospect of enjoying a peaceful environment with cleaner air excites us all. However, many are unaware of how mass tourism endangers nature and the world’s most visited cities. Although tourism generates economic, cultural, and social benefits, it remains harmful to the environment.

For instance, it can cause damage, degradation, and loss of natural ecosystems due to trampling vegetation, cutting trees to enhance infrastructure, and increased traffic. Unchecked urbanization has culminated into and added to these woes.

Even small actions, like picking flowers, can significantly impact the environment.

Additionally, the tourism industry is highly vulnerable to climate change while also contributing to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which drive global warming. Therefore, accelerating climate action in tourism is crucial for the sector’s resilience.

Direct and indirect impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels and increasing ocean acidity, pose threats to coastal tourism infrastructure and natural attractions. Furthermore, widespread temperature changes will eventually lead to a shorter winter season, affecting seasonal sports and tourism.

The possibility of adaptation exists through various options, but they often come with added costs and provide only temporary relief. Moreover, a fundamental question arises regarding the feasibility of adaptation under certain scenarios.

Can tourism be sustainable?

According to the definition of sustainable tourism given by the UN World Tourism Organization, its tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.

This approach might involve limiting the number of tourists, as seen in 2022 at Maya Bay in Thailand, where visitor numbers were capped at 400 per day. Additionally, it could include banning polluting forms of transport or introducing a sustainable development fee, similar to Bhutan’s model.

Bhutan’s ‘high-value, low-volume’ tourism strategy channels tax revenue into conservation and sustainability efforts, such as planting trees, maintaining trails, and electrifying transport.

While these measures seem straightforward and feasible, it’s crucial to remain vigilant against greenwashing, where businesses may falsely claim to be environmentally friendly under the guise of sustainable tourism.

Greenwashing can mislead consumers and undermine genuine sustainability efforts. Therefore, it is important to critically evaluate the authenticity of green initiatives and ensure that they truly contribute to environmental conservation and responsible tourism practices.

By Alaina Ali Beg

I am a lover of all arts and therefore can dream myself in all places where the World takes me. I am an avid animal lover and firmly believes that Nature is the true sorcerer.

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