“Besieged”: tourism update


I know it might seem that this subject just won’t go away, even if, as Mark Twain said about something else,  you take a stick and hit it on the snout.   But as it’s one of the central subjects of existence here, there is no escape.

I was interested to see the headline in the Gazzettino two days ago, “Venice doesn’t know how to keep its tourists.”   This is intriguing, considering that much of the criticism hurled at tourism here seems to have to do with wanting the tourists to go away.

Just in case, though, that my recent disquisition on tourism might have seemed like the lonely ravings of  a solitary  misfit,  a recent study by the Confindustria Venezia, a business  consortium,  which looked at Venice, Rome and Florence,  has shown not only the brevity of the average stay (2.47 nights), but that tourists rarely return to Venice.   And they say outright that, as I mentioned the other day,  the city lacks a tourism strategy.

“The central point,” said Elisabetta Fogarin, president of Confindustria Venezia Turismo, “is that Venice needs a policy of Destination Management.   It needs to be relaunched at the international level, to make it an icon and a  glamour destination again, where the visitor and traveler can live an experience that can’t be repeated somewhere else.”

Glamour is the grail of tourism here, the notion that quality can be made to replace quantity in the economic equation.   I’d suggest that this dream is something like wanting all trains to be like the Orient Express, including the Venice-Pordenone local.   Which I would totally endorse, except that there are too many people who just need to get home from work to make that even imaginable.

The statistic of 2.47 nights here is, according to the study,  a sign that Venice is drastically under-realizing its potential; in any case, it’s not indicative of “culture tourism” (for which one needs more time, clearly.   Anybody who has entered the Uffizi Galleryin Florence with the intention of seeing it all knows that about five months is probably  a more reasonable time frame for visiting some cultural  monuments here.)   And 2.47 nights is just another way of saying “not quality tourists.”     Bearing in mind that to reach an average, you must have many people who are staying less time (and at least some who are staying longer, true.)   But mostly tourists just hit and run.

img_2361-venice-out-and-in-compI think somebody has already recognized this and decided to play to Venice’s currently somewhat battered image.   A new campaign promoting the city’s museums shows two scenes: One is a detail of the huddled masses in the Piazza San Marco, next to a shot of the magnificent Scala d’Oro in the Doge’s Palace, a ceremonial staircase dwarfing two lorn humans.   The slogan in Italian translates as, “If you stay outside, you can’t say you’ve seen Venice.”    Which I like better than the way they translated it, snappy as it may be.

So to really see Venice, you have to get away from Venice?   Well, I guess that’s as good an approach to crowd management as another.   It just seems  slightly regrettable that instead of promoting this monument for the wonder of the world that  it is, this angle is  more like “Want to get away from all those uncouth boors outside?   Flee into our gorgeous past, which is deserted,” which actually sounds pretty good unless you know that this means you’re going to have to pay 13 euros ($18)  to walk through endless non-air-conditioned rooms and look at a million paintings that all look alike.   Or so it might seem if your primary motivation for entering was merely because it isn’t Out There.

I happen to worship the Doge’s Palace and consider it a given that if you don’t spend several hours here, you can’t have the tiniest notion of the greatness, brilliance  and sheer power of the Venetian Republic.   Without which, your visit to Venice is just a pointless trek through a flyblown postcard.

It’s just too bad to tell people they should see the museums because there aren’t any of those awful tourists there.   But I guess if you have no tourism strategy, you’ll try all kinds of things.

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Categories : Problems, Tourism


  1. Scott says:

    You have a campaign in the making hitting on current tourism strategy or lack thereof in your 2 recent articles. I don’t know if the language is a problem, but hopefully someone is reading your blogs in the tourism office. Your passion for your city is apparent in all you write and as a world class traveler, you have the comparisons to offer in what Venice has and what it can do in today’s world.

    • erla says:

      I appreciate your esteem. We’ll see where we are after (or if) I reach a substantial number of posts on the subject. I myself will have made an important contribution only when I can offer some specific ideas on how to improve the situation. Pointing out flaws is the easy part.

  2. Also for me (I work in advertising), that advertisement with the two in and out photos doesn’t look good at all. The right photo seems to present the museums as empty, deserted places. This is not a good idea, if you want to encourage people to go there. The museums should better be presented as interesting, as places where people actually want to go.
    The message should be positive, also the slogan… the subconscious doesn’t understand “negative” grammar like “if yu don’t…”, “you haven’t…”, etc.
    And then, moreover, some people might feel criticized (esp. by the Italian slogan). Criticism can be a good thing somethimes in life, but it’s surely less good if you want to sell those people expensive museum tickets.

    At least I hope that this advertisement didn’t cost much. Else, I fear, it would be a bit of a wasting of money…

    As I write this, some budding ideas for museum advertisements start floating in my mind….
    have to turn off the computer and do housework, though.