Access Fees to Cultural Heritage Cities: A Way to Promote Sustainable Tourism?

Art cities face specific problems determined by tourism pressure in terms of higher public expenditure (to ensure the provision of public services, the restoration and management of cultural sites and infrastructure for tourists), as well as negative consequences, such as pollution, traffic, expropriation of the social identity of the city, a loss of traditional shops and an increase in prices. Regarding the tax law field, many countries have tackled this issue through the introduction of a tourist tax, which affects tourists who stay overnight in the city’s facilities. However, the tourist tax is not an effective tool for promoting sustainable tourism because it does not affect the so-called “excursionist tourists” (day trippers), who do not stay overnight in the city, but still largely contribute to the aforementioned problems. Using the example of the city of Venice, this article proposes a simpler and more integrated approach that delimits the application of access fees only to tourists arriving through specific carriers (in particular, cruise ships) and the access to specific demarcated areas in the city (such as St. Mark’s Square). The suggested system could become a template applicable to all cities characterized by the strong presence of tourists to pursue the ultimate goal of making all tourists – including excursionist tourists – contribute to the city’s public expenses.