Yesterday, the Venice population dropped below 50,000 for the first time, the council announced. The depopulation of the city has been the subject of debate for years.
The population of Venice’s historic centre, including the Giudecca island has fallen below 50,000 for the first time, the city council said Thursday.
As of August 10, the number of residents was 49,997. On Monday the resident population count was 50,011.
Venessia.com, an activist group that for years has campaigned to preserve Venice’s heritage, has kept track of the population decline. They said earlier this week that the figure would fall below 50,000 by Friday.
“We don’t have a precise number but, according to our calculations, and using data from the civil registry, it will go below 50,000,” said Matteo Secchi, who leads Venessia.com. “We have been warning about this for years […] we don’t want to give up, but no administration has managed to reverse the trend.”
Continuing decline of Venice
The de-population of Venice’s centre has been the subject of debate for years. Mass tourism is hailed as the primary cause of the decline. The council feel the phenomenon is now unstoppable.
Once a powerful Republic which built upon its maritime tradition, the main island has lost more than 120,00 residents since the early 1950s. Twenty years ago (2002), Venice’s population was 64,000. By 2012, it had fallen to 58,200.
Mass tourism certainly has contributed to the recent exodus as thousands of visitors crowd the narrow alleyways, bridges and fill the water buses. However, is it not the only reason for people leaving.
Secchi said that those who remain feel “suffocated” by an “economic machine” that has focused on tourism. Residents are faced with a high cost of living, a lack of affordable housing, and businesses that sell essential items being replaced by souvenir shops.
“Tourism is a double-edged sword because you take money but at the same time you expel all the activities and space for [the residents],” said Secchi, who described Venice as “a cash machine”. “There are those who are not from here but own a home, rent it out and then spend the money elsewhere.”
Venice authorities this year announced a plan to attract remote workers to the city. However, there seems to be little impact. “This kind of thing is OK, but we need an epochal change and for the council to bring in significant measures, such as offering financial incentives to property owners who, say, only rent to Venetians,” said Secchi. “The danger is that we are becoming extinct, soon we will be like relics in an open museum.”
Controlling tourism numbers
The city is taking measures from January 2023 to control the number of visitors. Non-Venetians will have to book and pay to enter the city, with daily limits on numbers.
However, unless the other issues are also addressed, there is the concern that Venice will become nothing but a cultural theme park.