Venice to Track Cell Phones, Use Hundreds of Cameras to Manage Tourist Entry

The city has introduced another effort to combat overtourism.

Venice isn't just planning a new tourist fee and reservation system to manage tourists, it also is deploying hundreds of CCTV cameras and a mobile phone tracking system to keep tabs on who's entering the beloved city.

Venice's goal is to track "every person who sets foot in the lagoon city," Reuters reported, describing a system of 468 cameras and sensors that allow officials to differentiate residents from visitors, track origins and destinations, and determine how fast people are moving.

Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro told the wire service that although he's expecting pushback on the new measures to control tourism, he told reporters "I have a duty to make this city liveable for those who inhabit it and also for those who want to visit."

An official checks details on tourists' mobile phones in Venice, Italy, on Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021.
Andrea Merola/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Venice has yet to make a decision on how many visitors is too many or when exactly it will begin enforcing reservations and fees. The city already has begun taking steps to limit tourism, starting with banning large cruise ships from the city's famous canals.

Venice has historically attracted an estimated 25 million tourists per year, enough to dirty the water flowing through the city's iconic canals and clog idyllic tourist attractions.

The city plans to use an app for reservations and is testing turnstiles that could shut out visitors if the city becomes too crowded. On the water, Venice plans to measure gondola traffic and speeds. Boat traffic in canals typically brings up enough sediment to be noticeable, but a quieter pandemic on the water has led to crystal clear waters that hadn't been seen in decades.

As part of the city's efforts to manage tourism, Brugnaro made clear in his Sunday news conference that visitors will be expected to adhere to certain guidelines. "There'll be conditions attached to obtain priority bookings and discounts," he said. "You can't come in your swimming suit. You can't jump from a bridge or get drunk. Whoever comes must respect the city."

Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets and walking on beaches. Find her on Facebook and Instagram.

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