People visiting the tourist magnet of Venice's old city will start paying a fee if they only visit for a day, city officials announced on Friday.
Those who are not planning to stay overnight in one of the city's hotels or other lodgings will have to sign-up ahead of time and pay a fee, ranging from €3 to €10 ($3.15 to $10.50) depending on the season and numbers of visitors that day. The new rule is set to come into effect from January 2023 and aims to boost revenues from the large number of day-trippers who bring little financial benefit to the lagoon city.
While children and people with disabilities will not have to pay the fee, the hordes of tourists arriving on cruise ships will, unless the cruise company pay's the city a special fee.
Some 19 million day-tourists visited the crowded city in 2019, the last year before the coronavirus pandemic.They represent around four-fifths of the city's total number of tourists. The reserve-and-pay scheme had been floated before but was put on hold due to coronavirus, which saw tourism disappear and left Venetians alone in their city for the first time in decades.
The city's tourism commissioner, Simone Venturini, rejected the claim that the plan aims to reduce the number of day-trippers. "We won't talk about number cutoffs. We're talking about incentives and disincentives," he told reporters.
Tourists who stay over in the city will be exempt from the fee since they already pay a lodging tax. Day-trippers who do not book and pay ahead of their visit face a fine of up to €300. Venturini said the system should "reduce frictions between day visitors and residents" in the small 5 square kilometers (2 square miles) city where tourists often outnumber locals two to one.
The city has been increasingly overwhelmed since the beginning of mass tourism in the 1960s. Its local population has dwindled down to just around 50,000 as residents flee the congestion, high costs and frequent flooding.
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European flights canceled and delayed amid ongoing strikes
Airlines hoping to cash in on renewed demand are facing labor agitation after firing swathes of workers during the pandemic.
Hundreds of flights from various European airports were canceled or delayed on Saturday as the industry struggles with ongoing worker strikes.
Labor action by cabin crews at the two low-cost airlines EasyJet and Ryanair as well as by airport workers in Europe's second-busiest airport — Roissy-Charles de Gaulle in Paris — are causing major headaches for airlines just as the first school summer holidays begin after two years of pandemic restrictions.
One in five flights from the main Paris airport were canceled on Saturday morning, while the EasyJet and Ryanair strike led to the cancellation of 15 flights to and from Spain with another 175 delayed. Ryanair's cabin crew also announced another 12 days of work stoppages. Paris airport workers said they will walk out again on July 8 to 10.
Low-cast airlines facing further strike disruptions
The striking cabin crews are demanding improvements to their working conditions and pay to put them in line with other European airlines. Ryanair employees have been striking since June 24, with the aim of bringing the company to the negotiation table, while EasyJet cabin crews joined the strike on Friday.
"After six days of strike and in view of the unwillingness of the company to listen to its staff and its preference for leaving thousands of passengers grounded rather than sitting down to negotiate an agreement under Spanish law, we have been forced to call new strike days," Lidia Arasanz from the USO union that has organized the Ryanair workers was quoted by AFP as saying.
Arasanz said that the initial strike had seen a total so far of "more than 200 flights canceled and almost 1,000 delays," adding that the new strike could cause even more disruptions.
Staff shortages cause airport chaos
Airport workers at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle are fighting for a wage hike to balance out rising costs from inflation. They had been offered a 4% pay increase on the condition that they end the strike on Friday, but this was rejected. "A majority of workers think the offer is not good enough," Daniel Bertone, who represents the CGT union, was quoted by Reuters as saying. "They don't trust management and they don't accept the 'it's this or nothing' blackmail."
The industry slashed thousands of jobs during the pandemic when people were unable or unwilling to fly, but they have been unable to refill positions as the new post-restrictions demand has soared. Airports in the UK and the Netherlands struggled to deal with the surge in traffic earlier in the year, while France was largely spared.
Pilots for the Scandinavian SAS airline delayed a planned strike on Saturday after negotiations with company management showed some progress. If the 900 pilots go ahead with their strike, hundreds of flights per day will likely be canceled.
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